Two teachers at Sutherlin High School won $35,000 during a national competition this year for their career and technical education programs — plus a little extra for themselves.

The entry from Wes Crawford and Josh Gary was good enough to earn a second-place finish in the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools award — one of 14 schools to be awarded that honor across the nation.

Crawford and Gary found out Thursday that they won $35,000 prize and $15,000 to split between themselves.

“It was one of those things where we were busy and we almost didn’t submit,” Crawford said. “We have a lot of great things happening here because of our students and our partners, and we thought that was something worth sharing.

It speaks well to what our kids are doing and what the people who are supporting are supporting and that others are recognizing that as being valuable,” he said.

The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools award was created to aid and recognize schools for career and technology programs.

Harbor Freight started giving awards for Tools for Schools last year. This year the company gave away $1 million to 52 schools that fit the company’s definition of excellent programs.

“We’ve always had support here at Sutherlin for these types of classes,” Crawford said. “They’re not just viewed as extra classes where you put the extra kids you don’t know what to do with, but they are seen as relevant and important and viewed as a priority.”

Sutherlin High School Principal Kevin Hunt said Crawford and Gary came into the programs with a vision and didn’t waste any time putting their heart into carrying it out.

“It’s a testament to the vision of our teachers and the way they inspire our students,” Hunt said. “With that inspiration, our students do some great things. That award is going to directly benefit our woodshop and agricultural science programs, so the students directly benefit from that.”

Crawford has been teaching at Sutherlin for 12 years, but revamped the program with Gary five years ago to make the class more accessible to students and more relevant for their futures after high school. They worked with the Oregon Department of Education to get grants, and partnered with related industries in the community.

“We were able to upgrade from 1970s machines to relevant equipment for what the industry is using now,” Crawford said.

“We also really ramped up how we were engaging partners in our community and it’s really been a climb ever since then. It’s really that support that’s made the difference and allowed us to do what we’re doing for kids.”

Crawford said they haven’t decided exactly how they are going to spend the money, but it will go onto something that fits their long-term vision and adds on to what they are already doing.

Janelle Polcyn can be reached at

or 541-957-4204. Or follow her on Twitter @JanellePolcyn.

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Janelle Polcyn is the business reporter at the News-Review, graduated from the University of Texas, and is a podcast enthusiast.

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