A Central High School teacher has been awarded $50,000 as part of a national contest to reward teachers who focus on skilled trades.
Jerry Webb, who teaches manufacturing, electrical and plumbing systems at Central, was surprised with the second-place award for teaching excellence Thursday at the school, according to a news release. Webb was one of 15 second-place winners across the nation and the only teacher from Tennessee to win.
The second-place winners will receive $50,000, with $15,000 to the individual teacher to use at his discretion and $35,000 going to the high school to support the winning skilled trades program.
Webb, a 21-year veteran teacher, uses a project-based approach to teaching and learning. His students have designed and created solar-powered chicken tractors and sold them to local farmers, and they've built off-grid, tiny homes for the community.
"The creativity and hands-on projects that Mr. Webb and the other winning teachers bring to their classrooms is an inspiration," said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools, in a statement Thursday. "This is education at its best, and we are humbled to honor these teachers and shine a light on excellence in skilled trades education."
Webb formed a partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority, where students built a portable, off-grid, solar power generating trailer named the "Green Machine." This year, 93 percent of his students passed the Dual Credit exam through Chattanooga State Technical Community College, giving them industry certification in solar technology.
"When a program such as mine can allow students to connect how their attendance and engagement in high school is related to graduation and achieving life goals, the benefit to student success is immeasurable," Webb wrote in his prize application.
The contest was sponsored by Harbor Freight Tools for Schools program, which recognizes 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 release states. The 2018 prize drew more than 550 applications from 49 states.
More than $1 million in prizes will be awarded: the three first-place winners will each receive $100,000-$70,000 for the high school skilled trades program and $30,000 to the teacher.