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Taylorville High School teacher wins national prize

Credit Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence

Taylorville High School building trades teacher Matt Blomquist won a national teaching award Tuesday that came with a $50,000 prize that he will share with his construction program.

The 2022 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence carried a $15,000 award for Blomquist and $35,000 for his program at the high school.

The program was launched in 2017 by Eric Smidt, the founder of national tool retailer Harbor Freight Tools, to recognize outstanding instruction in the skilled trades in U.S. public high schools.

The 2022 prize drew a record 768 applications and included three rounds of judging, each by a panel of experts from industry, education, trades, philanthropy and civic leadership.

A release quoted Blomquist: “I believe most of my students would say the most valuable lesson from my class is confidence to try new things and realize they can do a lot more than they realize; after all they didn’t know they could build a house and they did that.”

Blomquist, who was co-owner of a construction company, recently won Outstanding Teacher of the Year from Taylorville Community Unit School District 3 and was a finalist in the 2021 Harbor Freight prize.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is news editor and equity and justice beat reporter for NPR Illinois, where she has been on the staff since 2014 after Illinois Issues magazine’s merger with the station. She joined the magazine’s staff in 1998 as projects editor and became managing editor in 2003. Prior to coming to the University of Illinois Springfield, she was an education reporter and copy editor at three local newspapers, including the suburban Chicago Daily Herald, She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in English from UIS.
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