Teacher surprised with $50,000

Ron Martinez walked into his heavy diesel equipment lab Thursday morning with tears streaming down his face as he saw his students, colleagues, and Boise superintendent Don Coberly lined up to greet him with a $50,000 check.

“I was shocked,” said the heavy equipment diesel technology teacher at the Dennis Technical Education Center.

Martinez has been recognized as one of the top skilled trades teachers in the country in the annual Harbor Freight Tools for Schools national competition. The $50,000 will go towards tools, software and a welding machine. Martinez also received a brand new yellow tool chest with his name engraved on it.

“This is for my students,” he said.

Martinez applied for the grant in June because he wants Boise School District students to have the latest and greatest technology to succeed.

“The grant process was overwhelming,” he said. “But I knew I had to do this for my students.”

Martinez has been teaching for 20 years. He started his career at the college level, and then moved to teaching high school students. He writes curriculum for the industry and the state’s Professional Technical Education Department. He also developed an advisory board of more than 20 industry, academic and community partners.

As part of  Martinez’s curriculum, he requires students to develop cover letters and resumes, research the mission statements and goals of industry employers and develop specific goals for their transition after high school.

“I’ve never seen Martinez cry,” said Savannah Smith, a junior at Timberline High School. “This program is something deep in his heart that he truly cares about.”

Fifteen teachers from across the country, including Martinez, were surprised with $50,000 checks on Thursday. Nearly 550 teachers applied for the grant, which required three rounds of judging.

The application process, included responses to questions and a series of online video learning modules, was designed to solicit each teacher’s experience, insights and creative ideas about their approach to teaching and success in helping their students achieve excellence in the skilled trades.

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