“My mother instilled in me a strong sense of service and I always had a strong bond with my community. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I needed to be a teacher. I had something to give. Students of color need role models; they need to see that someone that looks like them can succeed.”

Glenn Harrison teaches Advanced Manufacturing at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Early College in Denver, CO. He grew up in the same neighborhood where he now teaches on the Northeast side, and recalls knowing that Black teachers were rare, but he didn’t know why at the time. After earning his Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and then a Masters’ in Geosciences, he worked for 11 years at the National Renewable Energy Laboratories. He enjoyed his career, but always felt a calling to do something more meaningful. When a friend suggested he go into teaching, he considered that students of color need to see that someone who looks like them can succeed, and so he made the pivot.

Harrison builds a culture of respect in his program – ”respect your peers, respect the classroom, the machinery, the tools, but most importantly, respect yourself.” From there, he adds respect for the process of learning, and the opportunities to be found in making mistakes and improving. He has noticed that students feel more confident trying new things after learning from their own reflection and constructive feedback from their peers. These elements build in communication and collaboration on key projects, like file management for the 3D printers, laser engravers and milling machines in the shop. His program also features field trips to different manufacturing companies, apprenticeships, mentorships, and internships.

Harrison loves that every day in his class brings an unexpected challenge, and opportunities for him to make a difference. The school receives Title I funding, with 78.5 percent of students on free and reduced lunch. His students question everything, push him to learn and grow, which helps him improve his craft and his instruction. To hone his craft, he attends professional development conferences, brainstorms lessons with fellow CTE teachers, and participates in workshops on teaching and learning cycles so he can best equip his students with skills for a successful career.

As students excel in his program, they advance toward a number of potential pathways. His curriculum allows students to receive industry certifications like OSHA10, NIMS Machining Level 1, AutoCAD, and more. These give students a leg up if they pursue opportunities with Harrison’s connections at RK MEchanicals, Minecraft Makerspace, Inworks with Colorado University Denver, Geotech and the NASA Hunch Program. For students who do not go into industry, Harrison knows that they have the problem-solving skills necessary to persevere through college curriculum or that they are prepared for the rigor and high-level of accountability that the military expects. He enjoys knowing that all students leave his program with the confidence, skill set, and outlook of their future improved, and that they are set up on a path to success.

Harrison previously was a finalist for the 2021 and 2022 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.

“My hope is that each student will walk out of my classroom better problem solvers, stronger advocates for themselves, and just a little grittier.”