GUERNSEY--It isn't often that you find Troy Reichert at a loss for words. A technical trades teacher at Guernsey-Sunrise Schools, Reichert always has something to say and is known for his quick wit and mischievous side. A friend to all and a dedicated husband, father, and educator, he spends most of his waking hours doing something to make life better for others.
On Thursday, the tables were turned a bit as Aaron Schnelle, Harbor Freight Tools Regional Manager, honored Reichert as one of 15 second-place entries in Harbor Freight's Tools for Schools competition. The award included a portable tool cart and a check for $50,000 with a 70/30 percent split between the school and Reichert.
Reichert told those gathered that despite the presence of his name on the check, he considered the award to belong to everyone. "This really isn't my award," said Reichert. "Projects at the Guard Camp and the VFW--that's what made all of this possible to begin with, and then the support we've had from the administration to other staff members, and of course all the students who've enrolled in the classes and worked on the projects...that's who this award is for."
Wyoming State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow also attended the event and praised Reichert's relationship with his students and his efforts to teach them skills that can be utilized in the real world.
In an interview later that day, Balow noted the change made by the Wyoming legislature last year that allows high school graduates to use state-funded Hathaway scholarhip funds toward Career Technical Education, opening up many more choices in technical trade careers. Wyoming students with an aptitude and passion for specialty trades now have more options for meeting the Hathaway Success Curriculum requirements in high school.
At the time it was passed, Balow said Senate File 43 would "help deliver the skilled workforce that Wyoming industries need, no matter if that’s a four-year degree or specialized training. Whatever our cars will run on in the future, we’re still going to need mechanics with advanced skills to keep them on the road. We need welders, electricians, plumbers, carpenters and wind turbine technicians."
This was not the first award Reichert has received in the Harbor Freight competition. He was a semi-finalist last year and received a Harbor Freight gift card good for $1,000 in purchases of the school's choice.
The technical trades classes at Guernsey-Sunrise have been involved in several community projects that became part of their story used in the application for several major funding awards. Along with work done at the Guard Camp, the renovation work that began last year and continues at the local VFW Post building has been the key project for Reichert's curriculum he developed to take his students out into a real world situation in construction. Reichert said, "I wanted my kids to get out of the classroom and put them in a situation where they had to actually participate in a building project that would expose them to the entire gamut of planning and carrying out the work start to finish. The VFW project has been a perfect opportunity to do just that. If they ever want to have their own business in the construction arena, they need to know how to manage cash flow, how job bidding works, how to manage time and work schedules--all the things required to be successful."
In addition to the Harbor Freight award this year, Reichert has also received funding from other sources. Over the past two years, The Home Depot Foundation, Harbor Freight’s Tools for Schools program and the Wyoming Department of Education have provided over $15,000. That provided the money that allowed the work to begin at the VFW.
Reichert and his students began with a complete renovation of the upstairs restrooms. During the 2018-2019 school year, they continued with the replacement of windows, improved the lighting and built a storage room for medical equipment the VFW loans out to veterans and community members as needed.
It was all a great start, but the lion’s share of the work still needed would also be the most costly—ADA access and a new entryway to the front of the building, refinishing the wooden floors, an interior facelift for the interior and stage, the addition of insulation in the walls and ceiling and a new HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) system that could make the building viable year-round remained.
With no way for the post to raise that kind of funding, Reichert knew being able to finish the project would hinge on obtaining a significant grant. In the spring of this year, he submitted an application through the Daniels Fund and in July, was notified that the school had been awarded a $70,000 grant for the VFW project. That work is now underway.
Reichert's achievements continue to mount as he will be recognized on November 8th during the annual community Veterans Day program for Guernsey held at the high school.
He will receive the National 2019 Medal of Honor Excellence in Character Education Award from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. The award will be presented by Medal of Honor winner Staff Sergeant Sal Guinta and Medal of Honor Society Executive Director of Education Cathy Metcalf. The first medals of this kind were awarded to several teachers in California in 2017.
The Medal of Honor Excellence in Character Education Award recognizes an elementary, middle school, and high school educator each year for excellence in teaching the Medal of Honor Character Development Program (CDP). Each winner receives a $5,000 prize and is presented with the award in a special ceremony.
For a farm kid from eastern Nebraska, Reichert has carved out a pathway that brings out the best in not only himself but others. But despite all the recent attention he's received, it's not likely to change him.
While the awards he's received are appreciated and absolutely deserved, his most complete projects and biggest rewards are found every year, dressed in caps and gowns at graduation.