Central Nine instructors named finalists for annual Harbor Freight teaching award

Representing the Central Nine Auto Service program, Steve Owen and Andrice Tucker have been selected together as a team of one of 50 finalists from around the country for the 2020 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Award for Teaching Excellence.

Tucker and Owen have between them more than 40 years of experience in the automotive industry. A former student at Central Nine, Tucker spent 14 years at Firestone before he returned to the school in 2017 as a teacher. Owen has been teaching for seven years and is an Automotive Service Excellence Master Technician and an adjunct instructor at Ivy Tech Community College. Tucker and Owen’s program is Automotive Service Excellence Education Foundation-certified, and students can earn up to 21 college credits through a dual enrollment program with Ivy Tech. The duo also encourages practical experience and skills in their courses, allowing students to handle orders from local parts stores and customer communications, as well as job shadowing and earning internships at local automotive facilities.

Steve Owen, left, and Andrice Tucker are in the running for $1 million in total cash awards as finalists in the 2020 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Award for Teaching Excellence. They teach at Central Nine Career Center in Greenwood. (Submitted photo)

“In our program, the main thing I like to preach is that we don’t just teach them our trade. We teach them employable skills, as well. We teach them how to be good people in the workforce and how to work well with others,” said Tucker. Owen and Tucker were chosen by an independent panel of judges from a field of more than 600 skilled trades teachers who applied for the prize. The finalists – some competing as individuals and some as teacher teams – hail from 23 states and specialize in trades including manufacturing, welding, construction, automotive, agriculture mechanics and technical theater.

The teachers and their trades programs are now in the running for a share of $1 million in total cash awards. The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence was started in 2017 by Eric Smidt, the founder of national tool retailer Harbor Freight Tools. The prize recognizes outstanding instruction in the skilled trades in U.S. public high schools and the teachers who inspire students to learn a trade that prepares them for life after graduation.