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Two Carroll County Career and Technology Center teachers earn national award, $35K for school

Two teachers at the Carroll County Career and Technology Center were surprised Thursday afternoon with a check for $50,000 in recognition of their work training young people for careers in the skilled trades.

The team of Michael Campanile and Michael Schweinsberg was chosen as a second-place winner from a pool of about 750 nationwide applicants for the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, which recognizes outstanding instruction in the skilled trades in U.S. public high schools.

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As part of the award, $35,000 will be awarded to the school and $15,000 in total goes to the two educators, who applied as a team after years of collaboration between the welding and masonry programs.

Bill Eckles, supervisor of career and technical education, has been in on the secret for a while, but managed to keep it from Campanile and Schweinsberg — though not for a lack of them trying. They knew the winners would be announced Thursday, and Eckles said they have been grilling him for days. Campanile said he’d been refreshing the Harbor Freight website watching other winners get announced and figured that they weren’t among them.

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After students left for the day, they called a non-emergency staff meeting and schemed to distract Campanile and Schweinsberg, while the rest of the staff arrived. When they arrived and realized they had won, the two men high-fived and their fellow teachers cheered them on.

Jim Liming, East regional manager with Harbor Freight Tools, arrived with a trophy fit for the occasion ⁠— a neon green rolling toolbox — and handed them a display-sized check.

The work they do “is critical to the future of our country and our communities ... Your students are lucky to have you,” Liming said.

When they received the check, Campanile recognized his colleagues, too. “Any one of you could have been up here with us,” he said.

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“It’s like a big family here,” Schweinsberg said.

Eckles said they were being modest. “They commit a lot to their students, a lot to the school. You guys make a big difference,” he said.

Afterward, Schweinsberg said, “My students will be very excited.” The welding class has kept a countdown on the board until the announcement day.

And as for the prize money, Campanile said they are looking at a digital marquee sign for the school. Some will probably go back into the welding and masonry programs.

To be chosen for the prize, the teachers had to submit a detailed application that went through three rounds of expert judging.

The folks at Harbor Freight were particularly impressed by the way Campanile and Schweinsberg focus on preparing their students for jobs in the field. Students in their classes prepare for careers ranging from bricklaying and tile setting to ship and aircraft building, earn their own industry certifications, and even operate a business building custom mailboxes, fireplaces, fire pits and brick ovens for actual customers, according to a news release from Harbor Freight.

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