CALABASAS, Calif.— Six Florida high school skilled trades teachers are among the 52 teachers and teacher teams from across the country who were named today as semifinalists for the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools 2018 Prize for Teaching Excellence and are in the running for a share of $1 million in cash prizes.

Wendy Schepman, who teaches landscape operations at South Fork High School in Stuart, and a team of transportation teachers at South Tech Academy in Boynton Beach—Timothy Brown, Eddy Martinez, William Terry, Early Murray, and Gary Coy—were chosen from among a field of more than 500 skilled trades teachers who applied for the prize. The semifinalists—some competing as individuals and some as teacher teams—hail from 27 states and specialize in trades ranging from construction and carpentry to automotive repair, welding, advanced manufacturing and agriculture mechanics.

Through two more rounds of judging, the field of 52 semi-finalists will be narrowed to 18 first- and second-place winners, who will split $1 million in total cash awards. The three first-place winners will each receive $100,000, with $70,000 going to their public high school skilled trades program and $30,000 to the individual skilled trades teacher or teacher team behind the winning program. The 15 second-place winners will each be awarded $50,000, with $35,000 going to their public high school program and $15,000 to the teacher or team. Semi-finalists whose school, district or state policy prohibits receipt of the individual portion of prize earnings were eligible to apply on behalf of their school’s skilled trades program. The first- and second-place winners are expected to be announced on Nov. 15.

“These semifinalists represent amazing depth and breadth in high school skilled trades education, and they exhibit incredible enthusiasm for teaching students to work with their hands, to love learning and be prepared for the future,” said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. “We are thrilled to recognize their exceptional teaching and to raise the profile of their excellent work through these awards.”

Schepman has taught agricultural mechanics and turfgrass maintenance for the last 10 years at South Fork High School—where she attended high school and knew she always wanted to return and teach the course. South Fork is also the first school in the country to have its own golf course maintained by its students. During college, where she pursued a degree in turfgrass science, Schepman worked as a crew member of the St. Lucie Mets minor league baseball team—the first and only woman to work on the grounds crew. Schepman’s students prepare to work in South Florida’s horticulture business by gaining experience in the school’s Bulldog Horticulture and Sports Turf complex. The 25-acre learning laboratory has a working plant nursery, a shade house and a propagation greenhouse.

Brown, Martinez, Terry, Murray, and Coy have developed a transportation cluster of classes and curriculum at South Tech Academy, including coursework in automotive repair, motorcycle tech, marine motor tech, and auto body repair. Together, the five teachers have more than 50 years of teaching experience and over 90 years of industry experience. Martinez returned to teach after attending South Tech as a student. In addition to hands-on learning, the team emphasizes the importance of professional and soft skills to prepare their students to pass the Florida Automobile Dealers Associations and Automotive Service Excellence certifications. Despite a low-income student population—more than 90 percent of South Tech’s students receive free or subsidized lunches, 97 percent of students schoolwide graduate, and many credit the team of transportation teachers for keeping them motivated.

The full list of the 52 semifinalists is posted here.

For the second round application for the prize, semifinalists will respond to a series of online expert-led video learning modules designed to solicit their insights and creative ideas about their teaching practices and how to inspire their students to achieve excellence in the skilled trades.

Each round of winners is selected by separate panels of judges independent of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools.

This is the second year of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, which was started by Harbor Freight Tools Founder Eric Smidt to recognize outstanding instruction in the skilled trades in American public high schools.

“Skilled trades teachers are unsung heroes,” Smidt said. “They teach our students skills that help them in life and in careers.  We respect and value the men and women who work with their hands to design, build and repair homes, schools, hospitals and businesses in our towns and cities, as well as our cars, trucks and tractors.  These skilled and creative workers keep our communities thriving.  At the same time, there are now hundreds of thousands of great skilled trades job openings, and that number is expected to grow.  We want to elevate the dignity and importance of this work by recognizing exceptional skilled trades teachers from our country’s public schools who open the door to learning and opportunity.”

News of the prize and other information about skilled trades education will be posted on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

About Harbor Freight Tools for Schools
Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is an initiative of The Smidt Foundation, established by Harbor Freight Tools Founder Eric Smidt, to support the advancement of skilled trades education in America.  With a deep respect for the dignity of these fields and for the intelligence and creativity of people who work with their hands, this program was created to foster and shine a light on excellence in skilled trades education in public high schools. Believing that access to quality skilled trades education gives high school students pathways to graduation, opportunity, good jobs and a workforce our country needs, Harbor Freight Tools for Schools aims to stimulate greater understanding, support and investment by public entities and others in skilled trades education.  Harbor Freight Tools is a major supporter of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools program. For more information, visit