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OHM BOCES auto tech teacher awarded $50,000 for teaching excellence

Mike Jaquays
Staff writer
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Posted 10/5/22

The longtime dedication of Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES automotive technology teacher John Stratton was rewarded Tuesday morning.

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OHM BOCES auto tech teacher awarded $50,000 for teaching excellence

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NEW HARTFORD — The longtime dedication of Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES automotive technology teacher John Stratton was rewarded Tuesday morning, as a surprise contingent of well-wishers visited his class to present him with a $50,000 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.

“We believe that skilled trade teachers are heroes who don’t get enough recognition,” said Harbor Freight District Manager David Zinicola, who presented Stratton with a ceremonial check and red metal rolling toolbox. “These students standing before us today are very fortunate to have you, Mr. Stratton, as you are someone who is preparing and inspiring the next generation of trades people.”

Of the $50,000, the OHM BOCES Career and Technical Education programs will receive $35,000, and Stratton will receive $15,000. Stratton said he expects the funds will be mostly used to buy new tools for the students.

Zinicola said the award is no small achievement for the teacher and OHM BOCES — out of 750-plus entries across the county — Stratton is one of only 20 skilled trades teachers receiving part of the $1.25 million in awards from Harbor Freight. He said the part of Stratton’s application that stood out to the judges — including experts in the fields of education, industry, philanthropy and civic leadership — was how Stratton enjoyed seeing bright and energetic young people finally finding their chance to excel in a school setting thanks to finding the skilled trades classes they enjoy.

It was an experience Stratton once had as a student himself, his application said, when he discovered an automotive class that changed his own perception of school for the better.

OHM BOCES Career and Technical Education Principal David Stayton said Harbor Freight Tools for Schools has been a strong partner of OHM BOCES for years. These funds will now directly support the students both currently and in the future in the skilled trades program, he said.

Stayton stressed the award was not drawn at random — it specifically commends everything about Stratton’s program, including instruction, state-of-the-art equipment, internship experience and customer service. The award is a recognition of the strength of the program over the 19 years Stratton has been there proving a great mentor for all of his students, Stayton complimented.

“Mr. Stratton is one of those teachers who always goes above and beyond and always is looking for increased opportunities to improve students’ experiences, not only in the classroom but out in the business and industry,” Stayton said.

Stratton admitted it was the fifth year he tried for the funds and he nearly didn’t do it this time around as the application process is a lot of work. He admitted he was glad he changed his mind and tried again.

That is also a good lesson for his students, he added. “I kept trying and my perseverance paid off,” Stratton said, “That is the same thing I tell my students.”

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