John M. Harris

John is an accomplished educator in California who understood that he could be of service early in his career. “I realized I really love teaching,” he says. “I also realized that I could be a different teacher than the teachers that I had when I was in high school. And I could advocate for all students rather than just the top 3%.” He tackled subjects ranging from math and science to photography and animal psychology and training. Harris earned his teaching credential and joined Downey Unified School District in 1992. He began as a teacher and Activities Director at Warren High School and eventually served the community as Principal from 2007-2013. Harris has been DUSD Director, College and Career Readiness, since 2018, and continues to help students channel their passions into high wage, high growth careers.

In the early 2000s, Harris became exposed to Career Technical Education through regional occupational programs involving classes limited to topics like floristry and SCUBA. He recognized they “were not really very rigorous or creative.” Harris has earned a reputation for being fearless in advocating for kids and making bold choices when developing more relevant and achievable CTE programs. He’s connected with industry and other educational institutions to build better defined pathways for students to navigate that make a bigger impact.

“It used to be that people would think of students in high school in two categories: kids that were going to college and kids that weren’t,” Harris says. “Then their course of study ends up being prescribed based on that determination. Instead, we should be asking, ‘What do you want to do? And we’ll help you get there.’ Then making sure that they’re aware of all of the different options…That may include college. It may not.” During his career, Harris developed 3 pillars to help students who plan to enter a specific field.

  • Discovery: “What’s the news on the ground about this particular industry and the opportunities that are there?”
  • Connection: “How do we make connections between all of the parties so that they’re in this ongoing conversation about the opportunities and the current situation, even if that might be changing?”
  • Promotion: “Eventually, the promotion and outreach to students to participate, industry to advise, parents to support the efforts that we have kind of moving forward.”
“Most of the people that have worked on my team have really vivid memories of what made a difference when they were in high school,” Harris says. “We’re really not interested in doing anything that’s not going to make a difference in a student’s life when they’re 30 years old.”
Pathways developed and funded with industry equipment/tools and Cerritos College articulation in high-wage, high-growth sectors.
  • Advanced Manufacturing Pathway at Warren and Downey high schools
  • Welding Pathway at Columbus High School
  • Alternative Fuels and Advanced Transportation Pathway at Downey High School
  • Construction Technologies Pathway at Downey High School
  • Audiovisual Technologies at Warren High School
  • Game Development Computer Science Pathway at Warren and Downey high schools
Pathways in development for a Fall 2023 launch include:
  • Robotics and Mechatronics Pathway  at Warren High School
  • Reimagining Biotechnology Pathway at Warren and Downey high schools
  • Plastics Engineering and Sustainability Pathway
And Projects:
  • AP4CTE – Advanced Placement for CTE
  • OER4CTE – Open Education Resources for CTE
  • Advanced CTE Mathematics course
  • Open Education Resources (OER) supplemental text in English and Spanish Mathematics for Game Developers