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Salem robotics teacher wins $50,000 for class from Harbor Freight

Shawn Burns is one of 18 recipients of the ‘Tools for Schools’ award

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – A Roanoke County teacher received much more than an apple for a job well done.

Shawn Burns won $50,000 from Harbor Freight’s “Tools For Schools” contest for his excellence in the classroom. The Burton Center Arts and Technology mechatronics and robotics teacher got his award in a surprise ceremony during his class Thursday morning.

Burns is one of 18 trade-school teachers across the country who received an award in the contest. He said he could not believe he won.

“With 600 applicants for this, you think, maybe we’ll find out something," Burns said. "You always hope, and this year, it worked out for us.”

Harbor Freight representative Erin Walsh congratulated Burns through a computer screen during the ceremony. She said Burns is more than worthy of the award.

“We chose him because of his dedication to his students, and his ability to connect students to opportunities for real-world learning," Walsh said.

Burns gets to keep $15,000 of the reward money for himself, while the remainder will be reinvested back into his mechatronics class. Burns said he plans to spend it on updated mechanical equipment for his students.

“We can use the older stuff and learn tips and tricks to make it work," Burns said. "With the new stuff, you don’t have to do that so much.”

Burns said he’s happy with the award, but even more satisfied his students will have more resources to fall in love with robotics.

“Once the students make something, they see value," Burns said. “When I point out all the little math and science things we did afterwards, it all makes sense to them. It’s a lot of fun, and that’s the best part.”

Burns is one of 15 runner-up finalists who won $50,000. Harbor Freight also awarded three grand prizes of $100,000.


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