Montecito High School’s construction teacher Nicholas Jordan is a finalist for a top prize of $100,000 in the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence awards program.
The Harbor Freight Tools retailer annually awards more than $1 million to 18 outstanding skilled trades teachers and programs in U.S. public high schools. The Tools for Schools contest is open to public high school skilled trades teacher applying solo.
Jordan has applied for an award for five years and has made it to the final round of competition before. But he said he believes he has a competitive edge this year — his application included input by Montecito Principal Pauline Leavitt and school counselor and psychologist Alissa Sculthorpe, who made writing and brainstorming contributions.
Montecito High is among 61 finalists competing for three first place prizes of $100,000 each and 15 second place prizes of $50,000 each. The winners will be announced in late October.
Jordan said if he wins this year, he aims to use the prize money to build a state-of-the-art construction shop on campus if the school district approves.
“I’d like to have a better facility for the students,” said Jordan, who reached the Tools for Schools semifinals in 2018, 2020 and this year. “It would be a safe shop where students can work and not be on top of each other. We’ve outgrown our space so that would be ideal.”
If the school wins the second-place prize, Jordan said he would probably buy needed tools and/or install a concrete slab so his students have an area to do construction work.
Several of Jordan’s students in the construction program at Montecito High performed well in the SkillsUSA national competition June 15-17. Due to coronavirus conditions, the students competed virtually on campus.
SkillsUSA is a national career and technical student organization that promotes training programs in the trades, technical and skilled service occupations. The organization holds regional, state and national competitions annually to showcase the top-performing career and technical education students in the United States.
Montecito’s four-member Teamworks College Division team won third place in the national competition. The high school Teamworks team placed in the top 15 and both the individual high school and college Carpentry contestants placed in the top 10. The college students in Jordan’s adult education class competed this year because they couldn’t compete last year due to COVID.
“Harbor Freight is amazing but I’m really the proudest of getting third place in the country for our small school,” Jordan said. “It’s a huge accomplishment.”
The third-place winners are Christopher Coleman, Blake Yule, Luis Lozano and Manuel Moreno. They each received tools, $500 gift cards and medals.
Jordan said the Teamworks students built a small house during the contest. They were instructed to read blueprints, complete a materials list, give a presentation on how to build the structure, and build the structure with plumbing, framing, steel stud framing, electrical, masonry, siding and washer/dryer connection components.
Jordan goes out of his way to help students connect with real-life work experiences in the construction industry, said Principal Leavitt. This week he is taking his students to the Associated General Contractors (AGC) training facility to learn about training opportunities, and he has hosted multiple visitations from companies such as Swinerton, she said. In the past, his students have participated in signing days where they pledge to work for Swinerton.
The San Diego Carpenters Union has also visited Montecito High to talk to students about their expectations and what it takes to be a part of the union, Leavitt said. She added that Jordan encourages his students to participate in community service, such as helping out at the Ramona Rodeo and donating a shed to the Fourth of July fireworks celebration in Ramona.
“Nicholas Jordan is a stellar educational professional,” Leavitt wrote in an email. “Mr. Jordan promotes giving back to our community and encourages his students to serve whenever possible. Mr. Jordan makes a difference in students’ lives every day and I am very grateful to have him on my team.”