Maxwell High School welding teacher Charles Kachmar raised his arms in excitement as he was surprised by friends, family and school representatives Thursday morning. The occasion was the official announcement naming Kachmar as one of the winners of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.

Kachmar is one of three winners across the country to receive the award, which recognizes public high school skill trade teachers and programs with a track record of dedication and performance. The award comes with a $100,000 check — with $70,000 going to the school and the remaining $30,000 going to Kachmar to be used at his discretion.

“I’m thrilled,” Kachmar said, as Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools, presented the check. “There are so many things that I can go to work and get done.”

Said Corwin: “We had 557 applications from 49 states for this award. Charles is one of those winners and it is due to what you have done for these students here. You’ve changed lives every day and made skilled trades education into a program here to help kids get amazing jobs and graduate high school.”

Kachmar, who has taught at Maxwell since 2012, has been a metal and welding teacher for more than 20 years. During his time at Maxwell he has developed career opportunities for students through a dual enrollment program with nearby Gwinnett Technical College, where he also teaches as an adjunct professor.

“I thought I would teach for 25 years and be out or go into administration,” Kachmar said. “I decided to stay here and make this the best welding program in America.”

Kachmar approached Maxwell principal Jeff Hall about applying for the award and what it could potentially do for the Maxwell program moving forward.

“I want to thank Gwinnett County Public Schools, my principal Jeff Hall, Jodie Reeves and the CTAE staff,” Kachmar said. “Anything I want they try to go to bat to get the things we needed. This award takes things to the next level and its a mission accomplished.”

The $100,000 is broken down into the Maxwell welding program receiving $70,000, while Kachmar receives the remaining $30,000 as a prize for his teaching.

“This couldn’t have gone to a better, more qualified, loving and endearing teacher,” Hall said. “Students love him and he is so good for our industry and school. He is one of the beacons of hope for our children.”

I graduated from Brookwood High School and Georgia Southern University with a degree in Journalism. I cover news and education for the largest school system in the state of Georgia.