Candor High School technology teacher wins $50K national teaching

CANDOR, NY — A high school teacher in Candor was surprised to learn Thursday that he had won a $50,000 prize recognizing excellence in skilled trades education.

Stephen Lindridge, who teaches machine tool technology at Candor Central High School, is one of 18 winners of the 2021 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence. 

Lindridge and his school were presented with a $50,000 check at a surprise school assembly Thursday morning at the campus. Candor’s high school skilled trades program will receive $35,000, and Lindridge will receive $15,000.

In total, Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is awarding $1 million in prizes to 18 skilled trades teachers nationwide. 

About the Prize Winner Stephen Lindridge

“Seeing students’ excitement when they realize they have used materials to create something of use with their own hands is very fulfilling. Students quickly embrace the philosophy “do it until it is right and not until it is done.’”

Growing up in a small rural community, Stephen Lindridge quickly learned that a trade can lead to a fulfilling life that can make a difference in a community. 

“I witnessed this first hand by watching both of my craftsman grandfathers build and repair wood items for others,” said Lindridge, who teaches machine tool technology at Candor Central High School in Candor, New York. As a teacher, Lindridge has developed extensive partnerships with local businesses that help the class with technical expertise, equipment, tooling and materials. 

His class mass produces Adirondack chairs and markets them. Their chairs have left New York and have gone to the states of Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. 

“It is always enjoyable when my students see their hard work leave our shop, and a smiling customer gladly hands us the money for a project that they built,” Lindridge said. “It made my day when one of my former students, who built chairs in high school, ordered two for his home because his construction job that he loves didn’t allow him the time to build some for himself.”

Teaching a skilled trade in his classroom looks different as the year progresses. 

“‘Skilled’ is the operative word in my room and shop. Students need to do and perform, not just remember facts,” Lindridge said.  

The curriculum builds from basics of tool identification and basic measuring to the use of hand tools to create layouts of machined parts and measuring premade items to determine if they are in spec, based on the print supplied. Students need to be able to interpret working drawings to find needed measurements and related geometry. Students then move into using manual metal working machines to make pre-designed projects ranging from a depth gauge, a C-clamp and a bull grinder. Once students have mastered manual mills and lathes they move to CNC operation. This work includes completing stock offsets and verifying that parts are accurate. 

“Throughout the entire process I encourage students to assist each other. I call this ‘a community of experts.’ When students have become proficient with a machine I have them show another student how to complete tasks on that machine. This allows the teaching students to further internalize what they are doing, giving them confidence and the student doing the learning a second opportunity for assistance when I am busy helping others,” Lindridge said. 

“The joy of teaching is beyond amazing. It is awesome to see the light bulb go on when students understand something that they have been working on.”