Previous Winners

Meet a Few of the 2022 Winners

Jared Monroe

Automotive Technology
Columbia Area Career Center
Columbia, Missouri
Jared Monroe
“As a skilled trades teacher, I have the amazing opportunity to teach, mentor, and be an essential part of my student’s career development. What I love most about teaching is that I get the chance to impact the lives of forty-eight young men and women each year.”

Jared Monroe is an automotive instructor at Columbia Area Career Center in Columbia, Missouri – the same career center he attended in high school, where he took a small gas engine class with a teacher whose challenging and inspiring approach he still remembers today. Monroe graduated from Nashville Automotive Diesel College and worked in dealerships and independent repair facilities, quickly gaining experience with a wide range of vehicles and obtaining his Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Master Certification and advanced level certifications. After nine years in industry, Monroe was offered the opportunity to return to Columbia Area Career Center as a teacher and take over the automotive program. He accepted the challenge, excited to make a positive impact on his future students the way his teachers had on him.

Monroe teaches a Maintenance and Light Repair ASE/NATEF-accredited program, which prepares students for entry-level careers in transportation mechanics and repair. When students complete Monroe’s curriculum, they are qualified to enter the industry as entry-level general service technicians and are eligible to take the entry-level ASE certification test. Monroe has also transitioned the program into a simulated workplace shop model with a service counter, parts counter, and technician bays where students serve as foremen and technicians. They also complete scenario-based assessments after learning about speciality equipment like brakes, steering and suspension, and electrical diagnostic tools.

To help connect students to additional education and career opportunities, Monroe works with industry partners in the local community. His students participate in the Ford ACE Program, which allows them to earn manufacturer-specific certifications while in his program. Monroe facilitates job shadowing, an industry speaker series, and career showcases, where service managers and shop owners can engage directly with students and parents. He also showcases his students’ skills and achievements; last year, for example, they held an oil change clinic for district employees.

Students who complete Monroe’s program pursue diverse paths, with some going directly to industry and others enrolling in post-secondary education or joining the military. They all share an appreciation for the skills and lessons learned in Monroe’s classes. One former student now in the military shared that the skills he obtained in the program helped him progress more quickly in his training. Another former student began working at a dealership after high school – after two years, he was able to buy a house for himself and his parents. These stories keep Monroe motivated to keep showing up and giving his all for his students every day.

Monroe previously was a finalist for the 2019 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.

“As I reflect on my first few years of teaching, I can’t help but see the similarities between how I felt walking into my classroom for the first time and how many students must feel at the beginning of each year. Not only have they just walked into an environment that can be demanding, intimidating, and dangerous, but they are surrounded by cars, tools, and equipment that are all new to them. I love being the individual who gets to introduce them to the unique experiences of working in a shop environment.”

Kristie Jones

Construction & Carpentry
Franklin County Career and Technical Center
Meadville, Mississippi
Kristie Jones
“Academic success and becoming skilled in the construction trade are marks I want to leave with my students. Five years from now I hope my students will say the most valuable lesson they learned from me was to love unconditionally and serve others with joy.”

Kristie Jones teaches construction and carpentry at Franklin County Career and Technical Center in Meadville, Mississippi. Jones inherited her love of woodworking from her father, who she shadowed as he worked, learning the value of the trade and the importance of giving back to others.

Jones welcomes her students into a safe and positive classroom, where snacks are free and hands-on learning opportunities are plenty. Opportunities include local building competitions hosted by Jones and community service projects. One of the first projects students build are beds that they donate to families in need through a partnership with Child Protective Services and local churches. Jones said she assigns this project to build a sense of community and altruism in her students. Jones’s goal is to make an impact in her community and the lives of her students.

“Teaching in the trades is such a unique position,” Jones said. “Because I’ve taught in other fields, I recognize what an opportunity I have to shape my students as I work hand in hand with them.”

Jones invites industry professionals to enhance her classroom lessons and to connect students with work opportunities. Her carpentry students worked hand in hand with a local construction company to build a small business next door to their school. Crew members mentored students and reinforced industry standards as students put on a shed roof and siding. Driving past that business daily, her students feel a sense of pride knowing they helped that enterprise to launch.

Jones empowers her students through community service projects, industry professional connections, and local skilled trades competitions. Her program’s success is evident. All of Jones’s students participate in SkillsUSA competitions, and in 2022, 100 percent of her students earned a national certification in construction and/or carpentry.

Outside of teaching, she owns a woodcraft business where she mixes carpentry with art to create custom pieces. Honing her skills as an artist and craftsperson, Jones has been able to pass the love of this craft on to several of her students, one of whom has started his own small business in woodturning.

Jones has a master’s degree in special education and credentials in construction, carpentry, and science. She sits on the board of directors of DonorsChoose, a non-profit organization that matches teacher requests with donors nationwide.

Before winning this year, Jones was a finalist for the 2021 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.

“Teaching construction and carpentry is much more than tools and sawdust. Each year, I work very hard to build an appropriate relationship with my students. I make sure they have all they need to be ready to learn.”


Blair Jensen

Jordan Academy for Technology and Careers—South Campus
Riverton, Utah
Blair Jensen
“The most rewarding thing for me is celebrating students’ successes. To see the joy when they finally master the skill is one of my favorite things about this job.”

Blair Jensen has taught welding at Jordan Academy for Technology & Careers for the past four years. Jensen has many fond childhood memories of being on the job with his family learning various trades and working on local farms. These formative experiences set him up for success when he switched majors in college from computer engineering to agriculture education with a focus in agriculture systems and technology. As part of a senior year project, Jensen signed up to TA welding courses and took night classes to gain as many certifications as he could. He continuously improves his teaching by attending professional development conferences hosted by a local ACTE association, and was recognized this past year as Teacher of the Year by the Jordan Education Foundation. Jensen has also been named president elect for the Skilled and Technical Division of the Utah Association for Career and Technical Education, where he will serve on a committee for three years to help facilitate conferences and create meaningful sessions for all attendees to improve their craft.

Jensen fosters a learning culture in his class focused on skills that will help his students become model employees. To do this, he has effectively modeled his program after an active shop. Students earn their participation grades based on active timecards, clocking in and out each day. Jensen also schedules them for a task each week, which has an associated hourly wage. More demanding tasks, like leadership positions, come with higher pay. These wages are used to pay ‘shop rent’ for their participation grade. This structure provides a solid foundation as students work from tool safety lessons to active assignments, like Jensen’s annual holiday prototyping competition. Kids in the program research, design and craft their own Christmas décor to be sold as a SkillsUSA fundraiser every fall. As the lead SkillsUSA advisor for his chapter, Jensen takes pride in his students’ successes in these competitions — just this last year, each of the seven trades programs at Jordan Academy had at least one student earn a gold medal at state level. Two of those seven placed in the top nine of their respective national competitions, as well, with one of the two earning a national title.

To ensure his students leave the program with a well-rounded set of skills, Jensen balances the classroom culture and curriculum with a variety of outside perspectives. Each Friday features an industry partner guest speaker, showcasing daily work at their company, open positions, discussion of wages, and more before the floor is opened to students to ask questions. Visits to local shops also give students insight into what type of careers they might pursue. Since the program is registered with the American Welding Society as a SENSE Level 1 school, students can graduate with entry-level welding certifications, giving them a leg up if they choose to enter the industry. Jensen likes to keep up with his graduates, checking in each year on their careers and accomplishments. Just this past year, over half of students who responded to his outreach confirmed they are working in the welding industry, many of them for partners that were introduced in his very classroom.

Jensen previously was a finalist for the 2019 and the 2021 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.

“While predominantly welding, several of my industry partners are in allied trades to welding or are major manufacturers in our area. I also invite instructors from the two neighboring community colleges, military recruiters, and local apprenticeship program directors to present on their education and career opportunities.”