Teacher at Hutchison High School receives $50,000 award

Construction teacher at Hutchison High School awarded $50,000.
Published: Oct. 5, 2023 at 12:12 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - On Oct. 3, students and staff at Hutchison High School gathered at an assembly to recognize their construction trades teacher, Steven Ratzlaff, who received a $50,000 award from Harbor Freight Tools For Schools.

Starting the day with an assembly in high school is at times a welcome change to daily routine. Few in the gymnasium on Tuesday morning knew why they were there. They soon found out, it was a day to smile as one of their teachers and the school itself were awarded significant funds that will go far in benefitting the construction career cluster.

Hutchison High School is known for providing students in the Fairbanks North Star Borough with an education in the trades. The alternative high school provides students with training in various trades from welding to mechanics, all of which are organized into career clusters. Students within the given clusters are prepared for a career in a given career track based on the clusters, allowing them to leave high school ready to join the work force as a skilled worker.

We believe assets to programs like this one at James T. Hutchison High School offer students excellent pathways to graduation, post secondary education, good paying jobs, and a work force our country desperately needs,” said Bob Kilmer, the education advisor at Harbor Freight Tools For Schools. Kilmer delivered this message through a pre-recorder video presentation that was played out at the assembly where it was announced that Harbor Freight Tools For Schools was awarding Steven Ratzlaff and Hutchison High School with a $50,000 award. Those funds coming from the organizations competitive national prize for teaching excellence.

The programs awards $1.5 million to 25 schools each year with funds specifically awarded for the work done by excellent educators. “It’s just a very surprising turn of events,” said Ratzlaff after the assembly, which he did not know was for him.

Ratzlaff was selected for the financial award among thousands of other teachers and while other have come before him, he holds a special place in the history of the awards existence. “What an accomplishment to be the very first Alaskan recognized for this very prestigious award,” said Dr. Luke Meinert, the superintendent of the school district.

Ratzlaf was selected for multiple reasons that he laid out in his application for the award, Meinert naming a few during the assembly. “What truly set Steve apart is his ability to nurture the talents of the students and guide them towards greatness in whatever they’re doing.”

When it comes to the use of the funds, Ratzlaf says he hopes to improve or replace some of the tools in his classroom. “You know, I’ve got a list of tools I’d love to have; things that’ll help us build tiny homes again.”

Harbor Freight Tools For Schools is an organization and program that was established to advance excellent skilled trades education in U.S. public highs schools. While they award funds to a select few teachers and schools each year, they also participate in education conference and projects to further skilled trades education in the U.S.