Derry teacher in the running for $100,000 ‘Tools for Schools’ award from Harbor Freight |

Derry teacher in the running for $100,000 ‘Tools for Schools’ award from Harbor Freight

Patrick Varine
Derry Area High School agriculture instructor Roy Campbell, senior student Nathan Pollard, and former superintendent Dr. David Welling pose for a photo on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2013, in a barn behind the high school.

Two Pennsylvania teachers, including one from Derry, are in the running to receive up to $100,000 for their high schools’ skilled-trade programs.

Roy Campbell, an agriculture mechanics teacher at Derry Area High School, along with Robert Brightbill, a construction teacher at Dauphin County Technical School in Harrisburg, are semifinalists in the 2019 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.

Tools for Schools is a program of The Smidt Foundation, established by Harbor Freight Tools founder Eric Smidt, to advance excellent skilled trades education in public high schools across America.

“We never cease to be amazed by the talent, creativity and resourcefulness of skilled trades educators,” said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. “This year’s semifinalists teach more than a dozen trades and have spent a collective 800 years in the classroom — teaching our students critical skills that our country needs—and we couldn’t be more excited to honor their work.”

Campbell has been an agricultural mechanics teacher outside of Pittsburgh for the past 31 years, including working for the last 21 years at Derry Area High School.

Campbell’s father was an agriculture educator, and Campbell said he was eager to follow in his dad’s footsteps.

Campbell’s favorite phrase is “no farm, no food,” which he shares with students to illustrate the importance of agricultural education and careers.

His students participate at the upcoming Westmoreland Fair, purchasing animals through the junior livestock sale, and matching the skills they learn in school with the real world of farming and agriculture. They also learn how to build nesting boxes, equipment sheds, small gas engines and picnic tables.

After serving on an advisory board at Dauphin County Technical School, Brightbill was hired to teach in the building construction program. For the past 10 years, through a program called Building Construction Cares, Brightbill has taken students to states affected by flooding and hurricanes to help with recovery efforts.

Semifinalists advance to a second round of competition, where they will be asked to respond to online expert-led video learning modules designed to solicit their insights and creative ideas about teaching practices.

Contenders will be asked how ideas from the modules might be used to inspire students to achieve excellence in the skilled trades. Two rounds of judging, each by separate independent panels of reviewers, will narrow the field to 18 finalists and, finally, name the three first-place and 15 second-place winners. Winners will be announced on Oct. 24.

The 18 winners will split $1 million in prizes. First-place winners will each receive $100,000, with $70,000 going to their public high school skilled trades program and $30,000 to the individual skilled trades teacher or teacher team behind the winning program. Second-place winners will each be awarded $50,000, with $35,000 going to their public high school program and $15,000 to the teacher or team.

“These teachers, their students and skilled tradespeople everywhere, too often don’t receive the respect and gratitude they deserve,” Smidt said. “Without them, construction would halt, homes, cars and appliances would fall into disrepair, and our infrastructure would crumble. We are thrilled to be able to honor and elevate the importance of their work.”

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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