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THS teacher named finalist for Teaching Excellence Prize

TAYLORVILLE — Matt Blomquist, a construction teacher at Taylorville High School has been named one of 50 finalists for the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.

This year a record 768 applications were received from 50 states. The 20 winners will be announced in October.

In the prize application, Mr. Blomquist wrote: “I love giving students a chance to have a feeling of accomplishment, and love when students

have to productively struggle to get that accomplishment. It gets even better if at the end of that they ask “what’s next?” That becomes my validation as the teacher and drives me to do it again.”

Blomquist is one of two finalists from Illinois. The other Illinois finalist is Jim VanBladel, an automotive technology teacher from John Hershey High School in Arlington Heights, IL.

A total of $1.25 million in cash prizes will be awarded in October, when the field is narrowed down to 20 winners.

“We deeply appreciate the work skilled trades teachers do to prepare and inspire our next generation of tradespeople,” said Eric Smidt, founder of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. “Their work is critical, because while our country’s need for building and repairs is growing, our skilled trades workforce is shrinking. High quality skilled trades teachers offer their students a pathway not just to a good job, but also to a meaningful career and a good life.”

The finalists are from 33 states and were selected by an independent panel of judges with expertise in career and technical education. Applications are accepted from teachers in the following trades categories: agricultural mechanics, carpentry, construction, electrical, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, manufacturing, plumbing, transportation and welding.

In October, more than $1.25 million in cash prizes will be shared by 20 teachers and their skilled trades programs.

The 2022 finalists now advance to a second round of competition, where they will be asked to respond to an online expert-led learning module designed to solicit their insights and creative ideas about teaching practices. The finalists will also be asked to submit a short video describing an aspect of their teaching that illustrates excellence. Two additional rounds of judging, each by separate independent panels of reviewers, will narrow the field to 20 winners and, finally, name the five grand prize winners and 15 prize winners.

The five grand prize winners will each receive $100,000, with $70,000 going to their public high school skilled trades program and $30,000 to the skilled trades teacher behind the winning program. The 15 additional winners will each be awarded $50,000, with $35,000 going to their public high school program and $15,000 to the teacher. Winners whose school, district and/or state policy prohibits receipt of the individual portion of prize award were eligible to apply on behalf of their school’s skilled trades program. If they win, the entire share of the prize will be awarded to the school.

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