When you look back fondly on a memorable teacher, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
For most people, the memory is of a teacher who was kind and made them feel safe, loved, and valued.
“When my former students come back to visit, they don’t say, ‘Remember that book you read in class?’ What they remember is our bond,” said Kari Johnson, Fruitville Elementary School’s teacher of the year.
In Johnson’s view, the bond endures past a school year, and a teacher has a far greater impact on students than academic scores.
Once labeled as needing extra academic support and having a learning disability, Johnson had the good fortune to have a first-grade teacher who had patience, kindness, and grace, and made Johnson feel encouraged and capable.
Johnson went on to earn a master’s degree in elementary reading and literacy and makes it a point to teach her kindergartners lessons about character along with academic content areas.
“The world can be turbulent,” she said. “I strive to emulate my first-grade teacher and help my students develop the confidence to create a more positive world by showing kindness and encouragement to one another.”