Stephanie Johnson marks students for dismissal at the end of the day at H.B. Rhame Elementary School.
Johnson says one reason why she was recognized for her teaching was use of technology in the classroom. She still needs to do simple daily lesson plans on paper though.
Johnson's students love her. One commented, "Ms. Johnson is nice to us and really cares about children."
By Kyle Vuille
Second-grade teacher Stephanie Johnson wants her students to see the world globally and that’s why she focuses on celebrating the heritage of each of her studentsinside the classroom.
Johnson, who teaches at H.B. Rhame Elementary School in Columbia, was one of five educators recognized nationallylast week for teaching excellence by the NEA Foundation.
“I want to ensure that children have the best possible experience with me," said Johnson, who received $10,000 as a recipient of the Horace Mann Excellence in Teaching award. "A child should have the opportunity to be a child. They should’t have stress, concerns, or worries and should have the freedom to be child. You only have one time to be a child, but a lifetime to be adult."
Johnson grew up in rural Sumter, home to Shaw Air Force Base, so she had friends of different backgrounds and nationalities. As a teacher, she wants to instill that openness on in her students.
Experiences later in life at the University of South Carolina and abroad in Sierra Leone has led her to gear her curriculum towards technology because she believes it’s the easiest way to see the world from a classroom.
A problem of the day hangs off the side of the Smart Board of Johnson’s classroom along with vocabulary words, numbers, and books that fill the classroom. Towards the back of the classroom sits a collection of Disney and Dr. Seuss memorabilia and even a photo of Johnson with Cat in the Hat.
Her students rush into the class returning from their Spanish lesson only to crowd around Johnson and hug her waist before grabbing their backpacks to leave for the day.
Her award has made her a mini-celebrity among her students.
A student blurts out if Johnson really won the award and states the prize money. He says he could some allowance.
Johnson is humble about the award and says it is natural for her to do what she does for her students. She believes that thinking in a more global sense leads to thinking more critically.
“As cliché as it sounds, I just want to make the world a better place,” said Johnson.
Johnson says the nomination was unexpected. She smiles as she describes the way her colleagues surprised her at what was supposed to be a normal faculty meeting. She actually thought she was in trouble by the looks she got entering the room.
Johnson, who was nominated by the South Carolina Education Association, was one of four finalists who received $10,000 and the Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence. Sonia Galaviz, a 5th grade teacher in Idaho, won the top prize of $25,000.
The NEA Foundation began the program in 2001 in collaboration with the National Education Association and the Horace Mann Corp started this recognition program in 2001. Horace Mann’s company slogan is “Founded by Educators For Educators.”