The Examiner U-46 News Feed
Award given to teacher from Streamwood High
By Seth Hancock
A Streamwood High School teacher was awarded a $50,000 prize by Harbor Freight Tools.
In November, the company surprised Matt Erbach, a precision manufacturing teacher, at his classroom with the news that he was a second-place winner, one of 15 nationally, in its Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence award.
“We definitely want to give a huge congratulation to Matt Erbach as well as Streamwood high on this great accomplishment,” said Brian Cohen, a representative for Harbor Freight Tools. “It’s been our pleasure to support anybody who’s supporting skill trades.”
Eric Smidt, CEO of Harbor Freight Tools, started the award in 2017 through the company and the Smidt Foundation. Erbach was a semifinalist last year.
Over 500 teachers applied for the award this year while three first place winners earned $100,000 awards according to a School District U-46 press release. Erbach was the only Illinois teacher to be awarded.
The release stated that Erbach was awarded by Harbor Freight Tools because of his “broad background in both education and private industry, his dedication to his own continued professional development, and the supportive environment he creates for his students in the precision manufacturing program.”
Erbach has taught at four U-46 high schools over the last decade and previously worked in the private sector according to the district. He earned his education degree from Northern Illinois University and a workforce development master’s degree from Southern Illinois University.
The $50,000 award will be split with $35,000 going to Streamwood’s program and $15,000 going to Erbach personally.
Erbach said that the award will help purchase equipment for trades such as carpentry, Manufacturing, Plumbing and welding and the program now has “years of that kind of stuff in front of me now.”
“Skill trades offer a great window for students who like to work with their hands,” Erbach said. “In the last five years, I’ve probably got roughly 10, 12 students that are all working for local machine shops or are working in apprenticeships or completing their apprenticeships at this point, and they’re all doing great.”
Erbach added: “In the classroom environment that I try to foster, it’s one that emulates the working world. You should be working out what the next process is. You should be thinking about how you’re going to interact with other people to keep things professional.”
U-46 has precision manufacturing programs at both Streamwood and South Elgin high schools.