CALABASAS, Calif. — A construction teacher from Washington, an advanced manufacturing teacher from California, and a marine systems technology teacher from New York are the first-place winners of the inaugural Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence,. The three teachers and their schools will each receive $100,000.

The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, which recognizes outstanding instruction in the skilled trades in U.S. public high schools, awarded $510,000 to the three first-place winners and seven second-place winners. Harbor Freight Tools made additional donations totaling $44,000 to 44 semi-finalists.

The first-place winners are Bob Kilmer, who teaches woodworking, computer-aided design, and architecture and construction at Enumclaw High School in King County, Washington; Brendan Malone, who teaches marine systems technology at Urban Assembly New York Harbor School in Brooklyn, New York; and Jonathan Schwartz, who teaches advanced manufacturing at Colfax High School in Placer County, California.

"We're thrilled to celebrate these remarkable teachers for inspiring their students to stay in school and develop skills that can lead to great paying jobs that are so important to our economy," said Eric Smidt, CEO and owner of national tool retailer Harbor Freight Tools and founder of The Smidt Foundation, which established and operates Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. "We created this prize to shine a spotlight on excellent skilled trades teaching and to attract investment in these classes so a strong skilled trades education can once again be available to public high school students across America."

Drawn from a field of nearly 700 applicants from across the country, the three first-place winners will each receive $30,000, and their schools will each receive $70,000 to support their skilled trades programs.

Kilmer has been a skilled trades teacher in Washington for 32 years, and his love of the trades started when he worked summers as a teen at his grandfather's construction company. In addition to teaching construction, architecture, woodworking, and computer-aided design, he also serves as an instructional technology coach for the Enumclaw School District. Students taking his architecture and construction class are currently building a tiny house for a local family in need. Kilmer's class is partnering with one of the high school's welding classes to build the trailer to transport the house, and a math class at a neighboring school will design the solar panels for the project. Kilmer is one of a handful of skilled trades teachers in the country to receive national board certification.

Malone has been a marine trades teacher for 17 years and previously ran his own marine systems company for more than a decade before heading the maintenance and restoration of New York City's South Street Seaport Museum's fleet of historic vessels. A certified marine systems technician with a 100-ton U.S. Coast Guard captain's license, Malone attended a marine trades high school in New Haven, Connecticut, where he developed his love for the trades. The marine systems technology program at the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School prepares students to work in a career building, maintaining and repairing boats. It is authorized to administer the American Boat and Yacht Council's Marine Systems Technician Certification Exam, which is a critical credential in the marine industry. Malone's juniors and seniors are required to participate in marine field internships, and this year, his class is partnering with the South Street Seaport Museum in New York to restore a 1930s tugboat as part of its internship program.

After years of owning a construction company, Schwartz turned to teaching math at Colfax High School in rural Northern California. When the woodshop teacher retired and the shop was in danger of closing, Schwartz took over the construction program because he knew the value of hands-on learning. When the drafting program faced the same fate, he took over those classes and created a new program that combined drafting, woodshop, and advanced manufacturing. Under the program, now known as "pre-engineering," Schwartz's students use computer software to design wood projects and then build those projects with traditional shop tools, computer numerical control (CNC) equipment, 3-D printers, and laser cutters. The program's capstone course pairs students with a mentor to design and build a large project over the course of their senior year. Schwartz also designs woodworking tools and has a YouTube channel, where he demonstrates project ideas for woodworking, CNC manufacturing, and applied math.

The following seven second-place winners will each receive $10,000, and their high schools will receive $20,000 for their skilled trades programs:

Roxanne Montarro Amiot, automotive technology, Bullard-Havens Technical High School,

Bridgeport, Connecticut; Gerald “Dave” Huffman and Patrick Wadsworth, construction technology, Gulfport High School, Gulfport, Mississippi; Ed Hughes, construction, technology education, Sheboygan Falls High School, Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin; Scott Mayotte, automotive technology, Concord Regional Technical Center, Concord, New Hampshire; Cole Smith and Bill Hartman, construction, woodworking, Rancho Cotate High School, Rohnert Park, California; Robert David White, automotive technology, Parkside High School, Salisbury, Maryland; and Randy Williamson, construction trades, Williamsport Area High School Career and Technical Education, Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

"All 10 of these winners are exemplary, and the ultimate winners are their students," said Robin Kramer, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. "These teachers combine their considerable skill and creativity with dedication and zeal for learning — all for the benefit of their students and their futures. Their practices and results offer valuable approaches that other skilled trades teachers can adapt and use in their own programs. We look forward to bringing together all of them next summer so they can get to know each other's work up close and share strategies to promote excellence for the field at our first 'Let's Build It Institute.'"

The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence was designed to recognize outstanding instruction in the skilled trades in U.S. public high schools that inspires students to learn a trade that prepares them for a career after high school.

The need for skilled trades professionals in the U.S. is growing. Between now and 2024, there will be more than 1.5 million skilled trades job openings as Baby Boomers retire, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This inaugural prize competition drew nearly 700 applicants from 48 states, and the field was narrowed to 54 semi-finalists, then 10 finalists, and then the three first-place winners. The application process included a learning component that gave all applicants access to ideas and practices through a series of online expert-led learning modules designed to help them be more effective in the classroom. All learning modules are available online at

The finalists were selected by panels of judges from the worlds of business, K-12, and higher education; the trades and crafts; nonprofit organizations; and philanthropy. A separate panel of seven judges selected the first- and second-place winners. Harbor Freight Tools for Schools did not play a role in selecting the finalists or winners.

For more information about the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Teaching Prize for Excellence, visit

Publication date: 11/03/17