Cam High’s Woodshop Teacher Reaches Finals in National Competition


Clarissa Shin

Myles Brasted, senior, holds current work-in-progress while smiling next to Mr. Peter Wachtel, competitor in Harbor Freight’s one-million dollar competition.

Clarissa Shin, Staff Writer

Cam High’s woodshop teacher, Mr. Peter Wachtel, is one of 52 finalists in the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools 2018 Prize for Teaching Excellence.

Harbor Freight’s competition offers winners a collective $1 million prize. The three individuals who place first will be awarded $100,000 each, and 15 second place winners will be awarded $50,000 each.

The competition required Wachtel to answer several online questions, including his goals of teaching, how he instructs students on industrial technology, and what he would use the prize money for. In his responses, Wachtel explained his interest in doing what is best for his students.

“If I win the money, my hopes are to purchase tools and hardware supplies for students in culinary, woodshop, and agricultural programs,” Wachtel said.

Wachtel has been teaching at Cam High for three years, and he tries to prepare his students for the world beyond high school. “If I need help, Mr. Wachtel will help me understand more than any other teacher because he really knows what he’s doing and is confident interacting with me,” said junior, Gabriel Ortiz.

Wachtel hopes to motivate and inspire his students by sharing his past experiences of teaching a college design course and designing both the Viper and Batman rides at Six Flags Magic Mountain. Wachtel also designed The Grill Wrangler, a BBQ tool that sold over 500,000 units.

Rigo Rodriguez, senior and two-year member of woodshop, said, “Mr. Wachtel provides a safe environment for all students to grow, not only as foremen but as individuals.” Wachtel’s past successes have inspired Rodriguez to pursue a career in carpentry.

“Mr. Wachtel has taught us to always put effort into whatever it is we’re doing,” said senior, Myles Brasted. Wachtel instructs students in a hands-on environment that he closely monitors, especially when students start to use new machinery. Wachtel reinforces safety protocols before the students are able to use any unfamiliar tools to ensure that they remain safe.

Wachtel strives to teach students the effective use of tools, the materials necessary to build structures, and how to set the foundations of their educational careers.

“I was once just like the students back in high school. I’ve been through the good, the bad, and the ugly. As I’m entering the competition, although it’s for myself, it’s for the world to see the work that the students of Camarillo have produced, and in the end it comes down to them.”