McGavock High School Aviation Teacher and His Program Compete for Share of $1M Award from Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Program



Derek Rowe, a Nashville high school aviation maintenance teacher, is one of 50 educators and teacher-teams who were named semifinalists of the 2019 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, according to a press release.

Rowe, a teacher at McGavock High School in Nashville, and his skilled trades program are in the running for a share of $1 million in total cash awards, Harbor Freight Tools for Schools said in a statement.

More information about the program is available here.

Rowe, who teaches aviation maintenance, was chosen by an independent panel of judges from among a field of 749 skilled trades teachers who applied for the prize. The semifinalists—some competing as individuals and some as teacher teams—hail from 26 states and specialize in trades including manufacturing, welding, construction, automotive and agriculture mechanics.

Rowe moved to the United States six years ago from Great Britain to work as a training director with a helicopter company, according to a Metro Nashville Schools blog. That did not work, and he began teaching at the teach high school level. Rowe has been an aviation instructor for more than 30 years, serving 17 of those years in the British Army as a pilot.

Students participating in McGavock’s program have the opportunity to earn a pilot’s license and build a two-person $85,000 aircraft capable of flying up to 10,000 feet at 200 miles per hour.

Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools, said “we never cease to be amazed by the talent, creativity and resourcefulness of skilled trades educators.”

Also, Rowe told Harbor Freight Tools that a heart attack and triple-bypass surgery inspired him to change careers and give back to his local schools, where approximately three in four students live below the federal poverty line. Rowe took over a defunct aviation program at McGavock High School that was slated to close, and under his leadership, the program is now thriving.

Rowe partners with core-subject teachers to integrate math and science with career pathways through a project-based learning curriculum. This year, his graduating seniors earned $1.7 million in scholarships.

More information about the McGavock High School Academy of Aviation and Transportation is available here.

The 2019 semifinalists will 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. The 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 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.

Harbor Freight 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.

The full list of the 50 semifinalists is posted here.

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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.
Photo “Derek Rowe” by MNPS.




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