By Todd Travis
A big surprise
Last week Andrice Tucker, an automotive technology teacher at Central Nine Career Center, was surprised with the presentation of the 2022 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence – along with a $50,000 check. Central Nine’s high school skilled trades program will receive $35,000, and Tucker will receive $15,000. On what he thought was going to be a normal Tuesday, Andrice received an award he had been pursing for over two years.
“This year in particular, they had things set up for me. They even had my family there, and my wife kept it a secret because they all knew ahead of time. So they just told me they need a photo-op, which is pretty standard. But when I walked over, they had the balloons and cameras out there and everything,” Tucker remembered.
About the award
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, to recognize outstanding instruction in the skilled trades in U.S. public high schools and the teachers who inspire students to learn skills to prepare for life after graduation. The 2022 prize drew a record 768 applications from all 50 states and included three rounds of judging, each by an independent panel of experts from industry, education, trades, philanthropy and civic leadership.
Out of those applicants, Tucker was one of just 20 winners for this prize.
Never giving up
“This award really meant something to me because to get it, I had to keep trying. I told my students that I didn’t just get the award in one time, so it’s important for them too to keep trying at whatever they’re doing because eventually they can succeed,” Tucker expressed.
Returning to his roots
The Central Nine Career Center means a lot to Tucker because he was also a student there himself growing up. After working with Firestone for 14 years he was given the opportunity to come back to Central Nine and teach. His goal upon returning was to try and help push the program to get even better.
“I wanted to get away from the idea of just standing in front of the students and talking. I wanted to show them examples, get them up to be active and doing as many labs as possible to get those concepts down. I basically turned it into more of a 70/30 perspective as far as lab vs. class,” Tucker explained.
“I think some of the success of this concept has shown itself by the number of interns we’ve had out and the amount of partners we have now in the industry all down US-31,” he added.
Making an impact
In addition to the different trades that students learn at Central Nine, part of the goal is to make students marketable and employable.
“We don’t just teach them the programs – we teach them discipline, attendance, showing up on time. A lot of things that help them out really in any trade they end up in. At the end, making them marketable and employable is what gives the big impact in this program,” Tucker described.
One important message that Tucker is adamant about sharing is the need that exists in the job market for skills trade. Being in a program at Central Nine provides students with an opportunity to get into the job market and create an earlier income opportunity. In doing so, they are able to find out whether the skills trade is right for them while still having the opportunity to do more schooling while getting the experience of working in the job market.
“Just this past year I had a parent call me and tell me about how their kid was able to start working in the field and become successful. They didn’t even realize they were going to be able to be that successful. Meanwhile, they were also still able to attend Ivy Tech while having that job and being able to provide for their family. That’s the kind of experience that’s so important for students to get,” Tucker shared.
Giving back to the students
Tucker plans to find creative ways to give some of the money he will be receiving back to the students.
“This may include helping students with tools, or whatever they need in the industry. And with $35,000 of that money going to the program, I think for at least five years if not more we can put out a certain amount of money to give some of the top students that will help them get tools and help their careers,” he said.
To find out more about Central Nine Career Center visit: central9.k12.in.us