EDINBURG – Harbor Freight Tools for Schools recently selected Amancio Rodriguez, an Edinburg CISD Career and Technical Education Metal Fabrication and Machining teacher from Economedes High School, as a semifinalist for the inaugural Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.

“This award is a culmination of the success that I have had in my career working with students from all demographics,” Rodriguez said. “It has allowed me to showcase the successes of my honor and advanced students, and the accomplishments of my industrial certification program for the cohort from the Visions Academy last summer.”

As part of the contest, Rodriguez had to write essays about his career, which he said brought back very fond memories of his experiences with young men and women over four decades.

“When asked why I never moved on from my program to other positions. My answer has always been the same, ‘I believe that my students deserve to have a great teacher working with them,’” Rodriguez said. “The truth is that in my 37 years of teaching, just once have I ever awakened felling like I didn’t want to come to work.”

To salute Rodriguez as a semifinalist, Harbor Freight Tools will provide a gift card in the amount of $1,000 to support the district’s Metal Fabrication and Machining skilled trades programs, classroom and students.

Drawn from across the country and representing skilled trades like construction, automotive, architecture, woodworking, manufacturing and marine systems technology, the prize competition drew nearly 700 applicants from 48 states, who were narrowed to 54 semi-finalists. Harbor Freight awarded more than $500,000 to skilled trades teachers and programs in American public high schools.

“We created this prize out of huge respect for the intelligence and creativity of people who work with their hands to create, build and repair," said Eric Smidt, founder of the prize and founder, owner and CEO of the national retailer Harbor Freight Tools. "We're proud to honor the important leadership of these skilled trades teachers, who are working so hard to equip their students with the know-how and skill to land good jobs, pursue bright futures, and become part of a workforce our country needs."

The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence was designed to recognize outstanding instruction in the skilled trades in U.S. public high schools that inspires students to learn a trade that prepares them for a career after high school.

The need for skilled trades professionals in the U.S. is growing. Between now and 2024, there will be more than 1.5 million skilled trades job openings as Baby Boomers retire, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The application process included a learning component, giving all applicants access to ideas and practices, shared through a series of online expert-led learning models, to help them be more effective in the classroom.