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.