Marion teacher a semi-finalist in excellence competition
The sparkle in Mark Meyer’s eyes as he walks around his Marion High School classroom shows the passion he has for what he teaches.
The Tampa resident’s mission is to furnish his students with skills that will help them land good jobs.
The industrial and ag education teacher is in the running to share $1 million in prize money from retailer Harbor Freight Tools, money that would benefit the school as well as himself.
Meyer was selected as one of 50 semi-finalists by an independent panel of judges from among a field of 749 skilled trades teachers.
“I was floored to see that I was chosen from among so many applicants,” he said.
A second round of judging will narrow the field to 18 finalists — three first-place and 15 second-place.
Winners will be announced Oct. 24.
The first-place prize is $100,000, with $70,000 going to the local school’s skilled trades program.
The second-place prize is $50,000, with $35,000 going to the school.
“The money appealed to me as a benefit while at the same time helping the school,” Meyer said.
If he is a winner, he said, he could buy a plasma table for his department, but his dream would be to erect a greenhouse for Marion’s community garden.
Meyer has been teaching agriculture and welding for more than 30 years at Marion. His passion for teaching skilled trades comes from his belief that students learn best by applying what they learn.
He likes teaching 3D printing and robotics in his Mechanical Systems in Agriculture class. Students are assigned projects to digitally design, print, and present to the class. They study engines and control systems and analyze the strength and cost of items they make. A lot of problem solving is involved.
“This is the stuff I like to teach,” Meyer said. “I like to figure things out, and my students like to figure things out.”
Meyer named several things that may have contributed to his being chosen as a semi-finalist including Marion High’s partnership with Hutchinson Community College to teach welding.
He also has worked with the three trailer manufacturers in Marion County for 20 summers, doing everything from production to set assemblies, parts building, and welding.
“I can go back to the classroom and tell my students who might want to work there exactly what these manufacturers will expect,” he said. “I’ve learned something new every summer. I stay busy, earn a little extra money, and keep in touch with what they are doing.”
Meyer also teaches other teachers. He and one other Kansas man are the only two certified to teach the nationwide Curriculum for Agriculture Science Education course. Students learn about mechanical systems in farming and farming technology.
He has been the instructor for dozens of teachers the past four summers in Arkansas, Iowa, and Washington.
Meyer thinks training in skilled trades is essential for students.
“We steer so many kids to college and a four-year degree, but there are so many jobs available in skilled trades that pay well,” he said. “We need those kinds of people, who are willing to work and get that background.”
Eric Schmidt, founder of Harbor Freight Tools, started the prize for teaching excellence in 2017.
“Skilled trades teachers help hundreds of thousands of students each year experience the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that comes from learning a trade,” Smith said.
“These teachers, their students and skilled tradespeople everywhere too often don’t receive the respect and gratitude they deserve. 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.”
Last modified Aug. 28, 2019