Frequently Asked Questions

The Prize: What It Is and Who Funds It?

  • 1. What is the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence?

    The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence is an annual award recognizing outstanding skilled trades teachers in U.S. public high schools. As the flagship program of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools, the prize is designed to shine a light on excellent skilled trades education and build a network of exceptional trades teachers.

  • 2. How many prize winners are there and how much will they receive?

    The 2024 prize will award a total of $1.5 million to 25 outstanding skilled trades teachers in U.S. public high schools. Five grand prize winners will each receive $100,000 and 20 winners will each receive $50,000, with awards to be shared between the winning teacher and the skilled trades program at the teacher’s school.

  • 3. Who funds the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence?

    The prize is operated by Harbor Freight Tools for Schools, a philanthropic program of The Smidt Foundation, which was established by Harbor Freight Tools owner and founder Eric Smidt. Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is not part of Harbor Freight Tools USA, Inc. (or “HFT”), the national tool retailer. All cash awards to prize-winning teachers and schools come solely from The Smidt Foundation. Harbor Freight Tools provides operational support to Harbor Freight Tools for Schools and donates tool carts and gifts cards in conjunction with the prize.


  • 4. Should I register with my work or personal email?

    We highly recommend that you register with a personal email account (ex. Gmail or Yahoo) because we have learned that emails from Harbor Freight Tools for Schools may be blocked by school email security systems.

  • 4. If I am experiencing technical or registration issues, who should I contact?

    Check the full directions on how to register and apply here. If that doesn’t help, please email us at

The Application

  • 6. Why is the application so writing-intensive?

    The application for the prize recognizes outstanding skilled trades teachers. It is designed to be rigorous, to draw out your passion for teaching and to capture the magic of your classroom—all in a way that independent judges can understand and evaluate fairly. We recommend starting the application early and taking time to reflect on your craft.

  • 7. How long will the application take to complete?

    Teachers have shared with us that they have spent anywhere from a few hours to 30 or more hours completing their application. How quickly you write plays a role, as does how thoroughly you choose to write, reflect and edit. Because the prize recognizes outstanding teaching and this year awards $1.5 million in cash prizes, we designed the application to be comprehensive and rigorous.

  • 8. Can I submit photos, videos, or testimonials in support of my application?

    We do not accept outside photos, videos, or testimonials that are not part of the official application in support of your application.

  • 9. Once I submit my application, can I go back to edit it?

    All applications are final upon submission.

  • 10. What’s the application deadline?

    • Round 1 applications are due on Friday, May 3, 2024, at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time.
    • For finalists, Round 2 applications are due on Friday, July 12, 2024, at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time.
  • 11. When will the finalists and winners be announced?

    • Finalists will be announced on Tuesday, June 11, 2024.
    • Winners will be announced in Fall 2024.


  • 12. Who can apply?

    The application process is designed for individual teacher applicants. Teachers may not submit more than one application. Also, more than one teacher may not apply in one application. This is a change from the first four years of the prize, when teams were eligible to apply together.

    Administrators, teacher aides, grant writers, or non-skilled trades faculty members are not eligible to apply or receive the individual prize award and should not apply.

  • 13. Do I have to be nominated to apply?

    No. Nominations are not required.

  • 14. How do you define “skilled trades”?

    We define skilled trades classes as those that emphasize the expert use of tools and materials to build or repair products and structures. Most applicants will come from the following broad fields of trades education in public high schools:

    • Agricultural Mechanics
    • Carpentry
    • Construction
    • Electrical
    • HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning)
    • Manufacturing
    • Plumbing
    • Transportation mechanics and repair
    • Welding
  • 15. My trades class isn’t on your list. Can I still apply?

    We recognize that high school classes within the broad trades categories listed above have a variety of names, focus areas and sub-specialties. Past winners of the prize have taught, for example, green construction, marine systems technology, diesel mechanics, advanced manufacturing and engineering. The essential and common thread prize winners share is that their students work with their hands, using tools regularly in the classroom and throughout the course of study, to build, repair and maintain.

    The following courses do NOT meet the eligibility requirements:

    • Agricultural classes that focus solely on animal husbandry or horticulture
    • Computer Science
    • Cosmetology
    • Design-only Architecture
    • Family and Consumer Science
    • Firefighting and EMT
    • Health Sciences and Nursing
    • Law and Public Safety
    • Robotics Clubs

    If you have additional questions about whether your program qualifies you to apply, please email

  • 16. My school, district, and/or state policies do not allow me to receive the part of the prize award that goes to the individual teacher. Can I still apply?

    Yes. On the application, check the box indicating that you are applying on behalf of your school and that in the event you are named a winner, all prize money would be directed to your school’s skilled trades program, and not to you. This information will not be used as a factor in the judging process.

  • 17. I applied for the prize in the past but was not selected as a prize winner. Can I apply this year?

    Yes. We encourage past applicants to try again, and many of our winners applied multiple years before advancing.

  • 18. I teach at a public elementary school (or public middle school, community college, or private school). Am I eligible?

    While we recognize that teachers at a variety of institutions do excellent work teaching trades, Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is focused on supporting U.S. public high schools. Elementary, middle, and postsecondary teachers are ineligible. Skilled trades educators at private schools and home-school teachers are also not eligible. Teachers at district Career and Technical Education Centers serving both high school and post-secondary students may apply if they are members of their school district’s high school faculty. If you are a teacher at a career and technical education center not on a high school faculty, please email

  • 19. Who is eligible to apply for and receive the prize?

    The 2024 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence is open to skilled trades teachers who are current faculty members at U.S. public high schools. Each applicant and each prize recipient must be an active faculty member at a U.S. public high school, in good standing who is not subject to any threatened, pending or active disciplinary proceedings or involuntary leave of absence with their school, district or state education agencies or other authorities during the entire 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 school years. Applicants must be a faculty member at the same school during both such school years. For more details, see the full eligibility requirements available here.

  • How do winners receive the funds?

    If you are a winner and eligible to receive the individual prize money, we will send separate payments to you and your school/district.

    If you are a winner and not eligible to receive the individual prize money, we will send the entire payment to the school/district.