Escambia, AL, Teacher Wins $100,000 From Harbor Freight Tools For Schools

October 5, 2022

Jason Blackwell, a high school industrial maintenance teacher at Escambia Career Readiness Center in Brewton, Alabama, has been named a grand prize winner of the 2022 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, winning $30,000 for himself and $70,000 for his program.

“It means a lo not only to me to but to my school and my community,” he said. “Sometimes we don’t have a lot of home around here, and this is going to bring a whole lot of home and dreams to fruition.

It’s a great feeling to see one of our teachers from the Escambia County Public Schools, get this award,” said Escambia County (AL) School Superintendent Michele McClung.  “And we’re very appreciative of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools for seeking out those outstanding teachers and especially in a non-traditional school setting to come to a career readiness center and award a career technical education teacher for their excellence and teaching is outstanding.”

His experience in the skilled trades began when his father, a tradesman, told him, “if you listen to me, I’ll teach you everything I know.” Blackwell did just that, learning and following in his father’s footsteps. But in 2012, Blackwell was in a wreck that changed his life – he could no longer do much of his trade work that required intense physical labor. However, he was soon approached with an opportunity to teach, and he decided he wanted to share with others the knowledge his father had shared with him. With 20 years of experience and certifications across multiple trades, Blackwell has taught several different courses in his nine years in the classroom – all with the same goal to empower and support his students.

Blackwell encourages his students to take ownership of their learning and work collaboratively to solve problems. First-year students partner with more experienced students, and all take on leadership roles throughout the year. There are group competitions within their student-run company, and Blackwell teaches financial and project management, with students in charge of estimating costs, procuring materials, planning the schedule, and performing and evaluating the work.

Blackwell also works to ensure his students have opportunities beyond his program. He partners with community colleges to provide pathways for dual enrollment and last year established a career route into a nationally-recognized, certified apprenticeship program in industrial maintenance. His class also helped create the first competency-based apprenticeship for commercial drivers in Alabama. His program is an example throughout the state, with a 100%pass rate for the class and an 80% pass rate for National Center for Construction Education and Research and Manufacturing Skill Standards Council certifications. His students also have a 70% completion rate from 2-year college. His classes won the SkillsUSA Chapter of Distinction Gold and Silver in 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022.

Beyond teaching them technical skills, Blackwell strives to support his students in all their endeavors. In his rural area, many students come from challenging backgrounds. Blackwell attends their sports games and takes them to meet industry partners for breakfast. He connects with each student individually and mentors them across all aspects of life. In Blackwell’s program, they have an opportunity to complete school improvement projects and participate in various community service events after school and on the weekends. He and his students work together to make a positive impact in and out of the classroom.

Blackwell has a bachelor’s degree in Career and Technical Education from Athens State and is currently pursuing a master’s in Education from the University of Alabama. He won the SkillsUSA Alabama High School Advisor of the Year in 2020 and 2021.

Photos courtesy Harbor Freight Tools for Schools for, click to enlarge.


10 Responses to “Escambia, AL, Teacher Wins $100,000 From Harbor Freight Tools For Schools”

  1. Ensley Miss on October 7th, 2022 6:57 am

    Well done.

  2. Billy Gates on October 6th, 2022 1:02 pm

    Congratulations Jason: Thank you for your effort. I taught Auto Ser. Tech in Atmore for 40 years. Congratulations again.

  3. Linda on October 5th, 2022 2:04 pm

    Congratulations Jason! I know your family is so proud of you!! Mom and Dad did a great job raising you and you are paying it forward!

  4. John Bone Jones on October 5th, 2022 1:36 pm

    very cool

  5. Fence Jumper on October 5th, 2022 8:59 am

    Congratulations. !00K will definitely help with the home and dreams.

  6. Willene on October 5th, 2022 8:43 am


  7. Brian on October 5th, 2022 7:54 am

    Jason Kudos to you – Escambia Career Readiness Center and Harbor Freight, Our community and country needs to focus more on teaching students technical programs. The demand for skilled labor has never been greater and those jobs provide a good standard of living.

  8. Just saying on October 5th, 2022 7:38 am

    He took some lemons he got in life and made some fine lemonade.

  9. Grandma on October 5th, 2022 7:20 am

    Congratulations Mr. Blackwell! Those kids are very fortunate to have you for a teacher and mentor. You’re making a difference in their lives.

  10. Just saying on October 5th, 2022 5:53 am


    The trades are more important than ever.

    Keep up the good work.