Harbor Freight Tools for Schools announced Thursday the winners of its Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, distributing $1 million to educators and schools in 14 states.

Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is a program by the Smidt Foundation, founded by the family that started and runs the Calabasas-based retail chain Harbor Freight Tools.

The foundation's annual competition, now in its fifth year, recognizes skilled trades teachers in high schools across the country. Three grand prize winners will be awarded $100,000 prizes — with $30,000 going to the educator and the remainder to their school. An additional 15 prize winners and their schools will each receive $50,000 — with $35,000 going to the school’s skilled trades program and $15,000 to the teacher.


“High school skilled trades teachers and their programs are an essential part of addressing the skilled trades worker shortage,’’ Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools, said in a statement. “These dedicated educators make a huge difference in the lives of young people every day, setting them on a course for a meaningful career and to make a difference in their community.’’


The Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence was launched in 2017 by Harbor Freight Chief Executive Eric Smidt to recognize the often-overlooked trade instructors in U.S. public high schools. Over the past five years, the prizes has been awarded to 89 teachers with the mission to increase understanding, support and investment in skilled trades education.


“Among the key things we came to appreciate during the pandemic is the value of hands-on learning and the incredible resilience and commitment of our teachers,’’ Smidt said in a statement. “We are grateful that these outstanding prize winners and thousands of educators like them across the country are developing tomorrow’s skilled workforce.’’


The 2021 prize drew more than 700 applications from 49 states and included three rounds of judging by an independent panel of experts from the industry. In July, the field was narrowed to 61 finalists. The programs of the 43 finalists who were not named winners will each receive a $1,000 gift card from Harbor Freight.