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Dust Yourself Off


Dust Yourself Off

Dear Fellow Skilled Trades Teachers,

My name is Demetrius Wilson and I am a mechatronics instructor at Oakland Schools Technical Campus Northeast in Pontiac, Michigan. As an educator of 30 years, I am proud to be a part of a profession, composed of individuals like yourself, who work tirelessly and selflessly to educate the young people of this country – our most valuable possession!

Without question we have been and are going through one of the most trying times humankind has experienced. Yes, we were all shook to our core when Covid-19 swept our nation and the world. Most of us felt vulnerable, afraid, and clueless as to how we would continue educating our students. One thing we knew for sure was that we had to do it, and true to the history of our profession, we did!

The reality is, whether during good or bad times, teachers are always looking for ways and opportunities to provide the best educational experience for their students. In fact, it was this desire that motivated me to apply for the 2018 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.

I can still remember how excited I was when I first applied. Unfortunately, I also well remember how deeply disappointed I was when I discovered I wasn’t chosen as a finalist. I had given it my all and concluded that since my best wasn’t good enough, I could never win the prize. But then a little voice inside me called me to account for my hypocrisy.


You see, I have always told my students about the challenges and disappointments they will sometimes face in life. As educators we tell them, “When you get knocked down, get up, dust yourself off, and go at it again.” How could I tell my students to live by this motto and not do so myself? I knew the huge impact the prize monies could have on my program and my students, so I applied again in 2019.


Words cannot express the excitement I felt when I learned I had become a finalist in 2019, only to soon feel disappointed and defeated when I didn’t win. Once again, I had to push myself and “get up, dust myself off, and try again.”

But then came the pandemic, which challenged me personally in ways I could never imagine. With all the distractions and uncertainties, I questioned my ability to do a good job on the application my third time around, but I knew I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. There were many other teachers that felt the same way I did. Like me, they had to emotionally dig deep, roll up their sleeves, and get to work!


The saying “third time’s the charm” proved true in my case!  My perseverance paid off when I became a 2020 prizewinner!  If you are applying for your first time this school year, I commend you and wish you the best. And for those of you that have applied before but didn’t quite cross the finish line, my simple words to you would be, “Don’t give up, dust yourself off, and apply again!”


Start or continue applying now at so that you have ample time to put your best foot forward and meet the May 21, 2021 deadline. Never shy away from asking for help. Also, always keep at the forefront your sole purpose for applying. If ever through the process you encounter negative feelings, recall the faces of your students that are depending on you to persevere and “not give up” on their behalf.

I love the words of Ralph Marstan who once said, “If you focus on the obstacles, you give them more power. Instead focus on your purpose, on your most authentic and fundamental intentions.” As a fellow educator who is on the frontline and in the trenches with you, I would like to thank you for your unwavering dedication and commitment to educating the minds and reaching the hearts of your students. I sincerely wish you the best!


Demetrius Wilson

Engineering, Robotics, and Mechatronics Teacher

Oakland Schools Technical Campus-Northeast