A Role Model for a New Generation of Teachers
Courtney Johnson was already immersed in her undergraduate studies at The Ohio State University at Newark when someone remarked that she would be an awesome teacher — only she was majoring in mathematics with the intent to become an accountant at the time. That brief exchange led Johnson to change course, switching her major to education, and set in motion an alternate future.
In her education courses Johnson said she blossomed. The small campus at Ohio State Newark gave her opportunity for leadership and made it possible to build relationships with not only her peers in the major and her volleyball teammates, but also her faculty.
“The professors were top-notch, and they cared about us,” she said. “They gave back to the community and had a passion for their students. They were the role models for how to teach students.”
Now Johnson is the role model for a new generation of teachers. Johnson received her teaching license in 2002 after completing a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education at Ohio State Newark. She has worked in the Newark City School District (NCS) ever since, teaching second through fifth graders and currently serving as a literacy coach at Legend Elementary. She trains new teachers, mentors current ones and even advises student teachers — many of whom are current students at Ohio State Newark charting a similar path.
“New teachers have so much passion, and I think it’s really important to take the time to continue to ignite their passion for education,” said Johnson. She guides them in becoming stronger teachers able to meet their students’ needs. Her gratification is rooted in seeing the joy of a new teacher be successful in reaching a child who is struggling with learning.
It has not been an easy task in 2020. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, NCS concluded the previous school year in a distance learning modality and began the new year the same way. Between March and the end of September, teachers had no in-person contact with their students. But there was an upside, said Johnson.
“Through the virtual teaching, the teachers were able to get to know the kids at a different level. In many instances, we were able to instruct students one-on-one. We had the opportunity to interact with both students and their families together.”
Johnson further indicated, “A child not only has educational needs but also physical, social and emotional needs. You must address them all for a student to be successful. Sometimes it’s a hug. Sometimes it’s breakfast. Maybe they get anxious about a state test, and you have to teach them to calm and destress. Sometimes it’s how to be a good friend or do a kind deed. We treat each child individually and focus on their potential.”
Like her teachers and their students, Johnson is always learning. She completed an administrative licensure program in 2014 with the goal to eventually become a school principal. While she is on her own journey, Johnson works every day to make sure the children of NCS learn and grow.