It is our pleasure to feature Bedford Teacher of the Year Andrew Johnson as our March spotlight!
Andrew Johnson is a Middle School Social Studies Instructional Specialist at Heskett Middle School where he teaches 7th Grade Social Studies (Ancient World History: Greece through the Renaissance). Johnson received his BA in History at The Ohio State University, his 1-8 Teaching Certification from Cleveland State University and his M. Ed in Evaluation and Measurement at Kent State University. In his own words:
Hello, my name is Andrew Johnson and I currently teach Ancient World History at Heskett Middle School in the Bedford City School District. I have been married to my beautiful wife Deanna for 20 years and we have three great kids: Ryan (18), Rachel (16) and Jay (14). We currently reside in Hudson, Ohio. After graduating from Ohio State and a brief career in the business world, I completed my teacher-training program at Cleveland State. Additionally, I earned a master’s degree in Evaluation and Measurement from Kent State University. I am currently the Instructional Specialist (formerly Department Chair) for the Social Studies Department at Heskett. I have presented at both state and national conventions on the use of technology for formative assessments in the classroom. However, my greatest honor was to have been awarded the Bedford City School District’s Teacher of the Year Award for the 2013-14 school year.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
My inspiration to become a teacher really comes from two influential teachers in my life. First was Mr. Stechle, my 8th grade social studies teacher at Nordonia Middle School. Mr. Stechle made social studies fun for his students and I can still remember him telling the story of the “Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his extremely ugly wife Sophie” in his pronounced German accent. It is one of many stories that are re-told about Mr. Stechle some 30 years after we left his class and the fact that we still speak of him is testament to his impact as a teacher.
My second, and clearly greatest inspiration to become a teacher is my father, Thomas Johnson. If imitation is truly the sincerest form of flattery, than my dad must feel very honored right now. I not only followed in his footsteps by becoming an educator, but I teach the same subject that he taught, in the same district that he taught, at the same school that he taught. I have copied so many things from my father and I can’t think of a better role model in my life to imitate.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
The most rewarding aspect of teaching continues to be, and always has been, the sense of pride and accomplishment I feel when my students “get it.” I spend a great amount of time working with students trying to make ancient world history connect with their world. This is not an especially easy task. However, when I have students who are able to make connections between the past and the present and understand that where we were tells us much about where we are going, all of the time and effort are rewarded. Seeing students grow in their understanding of history and its importance for today is highly rewarding.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a teacher?
The greatest challenge I face as a teacher is trying to motivate students who often do not see the importance of education in general and my subject matter specifically. In this social media driven, instant information society we have today, it is difficult for many students to think of the importance of something that happened two weeks ago, yet alone 2,000 years ago. This is why I continually look for ways to connect ancient history to the world that my students are exposed to today.
What are your favorite ways to incorporate primary sources and/or technology in your lessons?
Technology plays a huge role in my teaching today. About 6 years ago I was fortunate to have been included on a team of teachers that applied for and received a technology grant for almost $250,000. The grant provided equipment but, more importantly, useful training on how to successfully incorporate technology into the classroom. This was a career-changing event for me. My students were no longer confined to the textbook or even the classroom. They were now able to conduct historical research, locate primary sources, and even be exposed to outside learning environments through the use of technology. Our students live in a digital world and I have seen a large difference between students’ excitement and participation level when they can use technology versus a textbook. The technology is not going away so it is essential that teachers learn how to properly use it to assist in their teaching.
What is the most important thing you learned in your teacher education program?
I think that the most important thing that I learned in my preparation at Cleveland State is the vital need for consistency in the classroom. That is not to say that the students do the same things in class day after day. That would be torturous for both them and me. However, the students know that in my classroom there is a routine that will be followed and a high expectation of both academics and behavior. Far too many of the students that we teach come from chaotic backgrounds and find comfort (although they would never admit it) in structure.
What advice would you give a student interested in becoming a Social Studies teacher?
I think that the best advice I could give an aspiring Social Studies teacher is to let your passion for history and social studies shine through. If you don’t truly believe in the importance of knowing and understanding history, than your students never will either. Our students may never love social studies the way we do, but with a real enthusiasm for our subject we can hope to impart on them the importance of knowing where we came from and how that influences where we are going.
Thank you Mr. Johnson!