Technical high school teacher awarded $50,000 from Harbor Freight national teaching award


HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — Wayne Violet was thrilled to be back teaching inside of the auto shop at Washington County Technical High School when in-person learning resumed but what should have been a “normal school day” turned out to be anything but that.

Violet entered the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Teaching Excellence Award alongside 600 other applicants from around the country. Violet was announced to be in the top 50 teachers earlier this year in July. From those 50 teachers, Violet was selected as one of the top 15 finalists who receive $50,000 from the program. WCTHS will receive $35,000 and Violet will receive $15,000.

Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is a program dedicated to supporting and advancing skilled trade education in public schools. The program was founded in 2014 by Harbor Freight Tools CEO, founder, and owner Eric Smidt who has given over $3 million dollars to skilled trades teachers through the Prize for Teaching Excellence which has benefitted 54,030 students.

Violet was actually a student at the Washington County Technical High School when it was the Washington County Career Study Center. He graduated in 1995 and went on to work 14 in the automotive industry.

“I tell you it’s been a real honor to actually be able to come full circle. I know that the county takes a lot of pride in this school and I do as well and I’m not much of bragging on my own program, but I am proud of where we are and I’m proud of everything that our students do.”

Superintendent Dr. Boyd Michael praised Violet for his hard work and dedication to advancing the Technical High School as a whole.

“COVID brings a lot of bad news, so when you get great news like this, I was very excited for Mr. Violet. I’ve been in his classroom before, I know his passion, I know what his students have accomplished and what his teaching has accomplished. So I’m excited for him. Certainly, he deserves all of the honor and credit.”

Violet applied for the Teaching Excellence Award last year but did not make it through to the finals. However, around the same time that Violet was notified that he was a semi-finalist, he was also told that his father’s health was rapidly declining. He started to focus more on making arrangements for his father and not on the award. His wife and friends encouraged him to apply again this year.

“I have these great ideas in my head where I want the program to be… But, there’s… It’s very difficult to stay up to date with how fast the industry is changing. So I had, like I said, I had these great ideas and I was like ‘please, please, please let me win something.”

When Violet was a student, he had no idea that one day he would become a teacher at the very same school he attended. But he is glad that he is able to help the next generation of skilled trades students.

“I wanna be able to, you know, give back to the program and even get it better than it currently is.”

Violet also highlighted that the auto shop also runs one of the few used car dealerships left in the state of Maryland. The licensed dealership is run through the Student Trades Foundation, a non-profit founded in 2002. The students work on the cars to prepare them for resale during Violet’s class.

Violet stated that the program is always looking for volunteers to help run the dealership and more importantly, the dealership is looking for cars to fix and resell.

“We will take anything because anything and everything is an experience.”

Violet also hopes that other companies will follow in the footsteps of Harbor Freight and support skilled trades schools and programs.

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