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Fallbrook High teacher Johnson is semifinalist


Last updated 8/31/2018 at 3:59pm

CALABASAS – Five Southern California high school skilled trades teachers are among the 52 teachers and teacher teams from across the country who were recently named as semifinalists for the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools 2018 Prize for Teaching Excellence and are in the running for a share of $1 million in cash prizes.

The five skilled trades teachers chosen from a field of more than 500 who applied for the prize are Dennis Johnson, who teaches automotive technology at Fallbrook Union High School; David Black, an advanced manufacturing and engineering teacher at Clark Magnet High School in Glendale; Peter Krause, who teaches construction at Tri-Cities Regional Occupational Program at California High School in Whittier; Nicholas Jordan, a construction trades teacher at Montecito High School in Ramona and Peter Wachtel, who teaches product design and architecture at Adolfo Camarillo High School in Camarillo.

The 52 semifinalists – some competing as individuals and some as teacher teams – hail from 27 states and specialize in trades ranging from construction and carpentry to automotive repair, welding, advanced manufacturing and agriculture mechanics.

Through two more rounds of judging, the field of 52 will be narrowed to 18 first- and second-place winners, who will split $1 million in total cash awards. The three first-place winners will each receive $100,000, with $70,000 going to their public high school skilled trades program and $30,000 to the individual skilled trades teacher or teacher team behind the winning program.

The 15 second-place winners will each be awarded $50,000, with $35,000 going to their public high school program and $15,000 to the teacher or team. Semi-finalists whose school, district or state policy prohibits receipt of the individual portion of prize earnings were eligible to apply on behalf of their school’s skilled trades program. The first- and second-place winners are expected to be announced Nov. 15.

“These semifinalists represent amazing depth and breadth in high school skilled trades education, and they exhibit incredible enthusiasm for teaching students to work with their hands, to love learning and be prepared for the future,” Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools, said. “We are thrilled to recognize their exceptional teaching and to raise the profile of their excellent work through these awards.”

Johnson has been an automotive technology instructor since 2002. In addition to teaching at Fallbrook High, he also stays active in the automotive industry – where he has worked for 30 years – which helps keep his program up-to-date and enables him to connect his students with industry networks.

Johnson developed a partnership with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles providing real world experience for his students. He has also developed agreements with automotive programs at local community colleges so his students can earn college credits, and those courses recently received University of California A-G approval to apply toward a four-year college degree.

For the second round application for the prize, semifinalists will respond to a series of online expert-led video learning modules designed to solicit their insights and creative ideas about their teaching practices and how to inspire their students to achieve excellence in the skilled trades.

Each round of winners is selected by separate panels of judges independent of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools.

It is the second year of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, which was started by Harbor Freight Tools Founder Eric Smidt to recognize outstanding instruction in the skilled trades in American public high schools.

For more information, visit

Press release submitted by Harbor Freight Tools for Schools.


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