Four Decades of Faithful Teaching
“In your article, please make sure you emphasize how much Mrs. Johnson loves her students.” This was one of the last things Alea Tyquiengco said during an interview about her math teacher, Carol Johnson.
Mrs. Johnson has taught for nearly 40 years, it will be 38 after this year, her last year teaching at Berean. She has seen educational trends come and go during her time as a professional educator – educational literacy, the back to basics movement, open classroom strategies, and many many more.
Through all of it, Carol Johnson has remained constant in two important ways: she wears her faith on her sleeve, and she loves students.
Carol found her love of teaching in fourth grade when she tutored a young boy in her neighborhood. The excitement and joy she felt watching him learn is the same joy she feels today. “I love to see the excitement when kids get it,” she says.
For Mrs. Johnson, math is more than just a subject she loves. Math is the foundation of the world – and its constancy and continuity are proof that the Lord is in control.
“Everything is based on mathematics,” she says. “This is not randomness. There has to be a creator.”
She started teaching in Escalon in the Central Valley. It was the kind of town where you’d be missed if you weren’t at the home football game on Friday night. Students milked cows before heading to school. Mrs. Johnson says it was a good place to get her feet wet.
She came to Berean in 1999 and knew almost instantly that God had called her to this school. “I love working here,” she says. “I would never want to work anywhere else.” At Berean Christian, Mrs. Johnson could finally share her faith with her students and really foster a love of learning in the kids she taught.
Mrs. Johnson became fast friends with many of her colleagues. She says the Berean staff are positive, encouraging, and fun. At the same time, she says that Berean Christian has also demanded the most accountability and highest teaching standards of any school she’s experienced. This combination of dedication to excellence and loving encouragement is part of what makes Berean so special, and it’s why teachers like Mrs. Johnson come to work here.
In The Classroom
“Listen, I’m a very simple teacher,” says Mrs. Johnson. “I’m kind of old school.”
Mrs. Johnson has her students work problems with paper and pencil in an organized notebook. She wants them to understand the mechanics behind the math. She demands that they think for themselves. Her old-school style seems to have a lasting impact; many of Mrs. Johnson’s former students say they use notes from her class to get through their college courses!
“There are so many things that make Mrs. Johnson memorable to me,” says Michael Williams, a Berean Christian alum. “She used to read stories during class,” he recalls. “Sometimes she read scary stories.”
Michael remembers a day that Mrs. Johnson read a particularly suspenseful story. His head was bent over his desk while he listened intently. He was lost in the plot as Mrs. Johnson slowly made her way around the classroom behind Michael. As the story came to its climax, Mrs. Johnson, only a couple of feet behind Michael, let out a terrible scream! Michael jumped out of his seat.
“The whole class laughed hysterically,” says Michael.
Michael says that he was never a math guy, but in his senior year he decided to stretch himself. He signed up for AP Calculus. “She pushed me really hard that year.”
Michael struggled, but he knew how much Mrs. Johnson cared about him. She really wanted him to do well. By the end of the year, things were starting to click for Michael.
Michael took the AP exam. He got a four; he passed. Mrs. Johnson was the first person he texted.
“I couldn’t have done it without her,” Michael says. “She is definitely one of the most impactful teachers I have ever had.”
On students’ birthdays, Mrs. Johnson gives them a pencil and asks them to share an embarrassing moment in their life. Then she shares one of her embarrassing moments. She creates a sense of fellowship and community with her students that they won’t forget.
2020 – The Year When Teaching Changed, And Stayed the Same
Like many teachers around the country, Mrs. Johnson is now tackling the challenge of distance learning. Everyone agrees it isn’t the same, but Carol isn’t letting this new way of teaching get her down. “I’ll run around and do things in front of the camera,” she says, “Egyptian pharaoh dance, twirl… I make a lot of funny noises.” She fully embraces her goofball side to keep things interesting for her students.
Alea Tyquiengco, a senior at BCHS, says that Mrs. Johnson’s love for her students really drives her class. Alea is considering a career as a math teacher herself, and says that Mrs. Johnson is a big part of that.
“Last year, I was thinking about my life and what direction I wanted to go,” says Alea. “I prayed for direction. Then, one day after class as I packed up my books, Mrs. Johnson said to me, ‘you know you have a great aptitude for math. Are you interested in pursuing a career in it?’”
It felt like a clear message from God, Alea says. She hasn’t looked back since.
For Carol Johnson, 2020 marks a bittersweet year in her teaching career. This is the year that she will retire. However, Mrs. Johnson doesn’t think that retirement means an end to teaching. She plans to do some tutoring. “I would teach forever,” she told me. “I would teach until I go to the grave.”
Congratulations, Mrs. Johnson. You are an inspiration to all those who strive to honor God with the work of their hearts.