Garden City High School Welding Teacher Wins 2023 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize

Courtesy of Brendan Lowe

Don Murrell, a high school welding teacher from Garden City, Kansas, has been named a winner of the 2023 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence®, winning $15,000 for himself and $35,000 for his school’s program.

Murrell, who teaches at Garden City High School, is one of 25 public high school skilled trades teachers across the United States who were surprised today with the news that they had won. A total of $1.5 million in cash prizes were awarded today.

The winners teach a variety of skilled trades, including construction, carpentry, plumbing, welding, automotive repair, agricultural mechanics, advanced manufacturing, and industrial technology.

“By expanding my program from the classroom, to the lab, to industry connections; the sky’s the limit for both my students and myself. Even now after having taught more than 3000 students, there is still not a day I don’t want to teach,” Murrell wrote in his prize application.

The prize, now in its seventh year, was created to recognize excellent high school skilled trades teachers, a group of educators who are frequently overlooked and underappreciated. Since 2017, the program has awarded more than $7 million to more than 130 teachers and their schools’ programs. The mission of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools® is to increase understanding, support and investment in skilled trades education in U.S. public high schools.

This year there are winners from 17 states, including: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah. A full list of winners will be available as they are announced on Tuesday, October 3 at: https://hftforschools.org.

“There is a growing shortage of skilled trades professionals in the United States,” said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. “These incredible teachers are educating the next generation of skilled tradespeople through inventive, hands-on programs. We are grateful for the work they do every day in classrooms across the country.”

The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence was started in 2017 by Eric Smidt, owner and founder of Harbor Freight Tools.

“We are thrilled to announce our newest group of 25 prizewinning teachers,” Smidt said. “They’ll join the more than 100 teachers across America who are now part of a tight network of outstanding teachers who are working together to lift up excellent skilled trades education. We hope this recognition and support will serve as a catalyst for greater investment in this critical sector.”

This year there were more than 1,000 applications for the prize, a 31 percent increase from 2022. The application process included three rounds of judging, each by an independent panel of experts from education, industry, nonprofits, and philanthropy.

The 25 winners and their programs will receive a total of $1.5 million in cash prizes as follows:

Five Grand Prize Winners

Amount: $100,000 each

($70,000 for their school’s skilled trades program and $30,000 for the teacher)

Twenty Prize Winners

Amount: $50,000 each

($35,000 for their school’s skilled trades program and $15,000 for the teacher)

In some cases, due to school, district or state policy, the schools’ skilled trades programs will receive the entire prize winnings.

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