Last week, Sikeston welding teacher Brent Trankler, an MSTA member since 2009, won $70,000 for his classroom and $30,000 personally as one of three winners of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, The application and subsequent interviews and modules required to move on is lengthy process. In fact, Trankler estimates that he’s put 100 hours into the process, but it clearly proved worthwhile.

“Welding technology is really expensive,” Trankler said. “So, I’ve gotten a lot of grants in the past, but something this big of a burst is going to really open up a lot of doors for this program.”

The army veteran who’s earned two bachelor’s degrees and two master’s degrees is also a National Occupational Competency Testing Institute Welding Technology Subject Matter Expert, through which he helps update certification tests for teachers and students across the country. Trankler is interested in using the prize money to introduce a programmable saw and robotics into his classroom along with expanding his overall hand tool inventory. He plans to work with his advisory committee and area industrial leaders to make sure the prize money is spent in a way that best serves the students.

As a part of being named a winner of the Harbor Freight Tools For School Prize, Trankler will travel to California to participate in a workshop with other finalists. He looks forward to connecting with the other winners and learning more about their expertise.

Trankler has taught a curriculum aligned with the American Welding Society’s standards in Sikeston Career and Technology Center since 2010. He says welding can present an alternative yet lucrative path for students, even if they have no prior experience.

“A lot of people don’t totally understand what a welder can do, but when it’s involved in 50 percent of everything made in America, it’s a wide open career,” said Trankler. “So every kid that comes into the classroom, they don’t know where it could lead. This is their first time doing something, but as a teacher, you show them what you can do with the craft.”

Trankler encourages other MSTA members to keep on the hunt for grants and scholarships to help supplement their classroom. 

“As long as you’re doing everything you can and putting in the effort for your kids, things will turn out. Search for grants and don’t think you’re never going to win them; if I can win something like this, you might too.”

Trankler credits his dedication to lifelong learning to his own curiosity. Even on tougher days, his students energize and reconnect him with his passion.

“The students are what drive me. Every day when I walk in, I have to realize that this place is bigger than myself. So, even if I’m having a difficult day, I can’t let that overshadow the students and what they need.”