Moffat County Locals: Jessica Johnson works to be a positive force in special education
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect that Jessica Johnson’s grandmother is a member and does counseling at Craig Christian Church, but is not a preacher or church staff member.
Moffat County High School teacher, Jessica Johnson, has a passion for working with students facing a variety of challenges within the educational setting in order to prepare them for life in our community at large. For Johnson, the key to success is building relationships, trust, and a sense of community in her classroom.
In 2011, Jessica came to Craig in the middle of seventh grade. Raised in a family of teachers helped influence her decision to enter the field of education. Her Dad taught history at CNCC for many years, and her Mom currently teaches pottery in England. Meanwhile her grandmother attends and does women’s counseling at Craig Christian Church.
Furthermore, Johnson’s brother was challenged with several cognitive and physical disabilities, which motivated her to consider teaching special education, and work with students who may sometimes live on the margins of high school society.
By her freshman year in high school, Johnson was already taking advantage of opportunities to learn about the teaching profession. She matriculated into independent study programs as an aide at CMS and MCHS.
“All of these experiences really solidified that for me; like this is the path that I want to go down. So, when I started college I was getting a degree in history, but I did a licensure program for Special Education,” stated Johnson.
After graduating from University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS), Johnson returned to Craig and is now in her third year of teaching at MCHS.
One of her priorities is building and developing positive relationships with students. This creates an avenue for communication and trust between her and the students.
“I think building positive relationships with students and among students is what builds the foundation for any education” observed Johnson. “Let’s face it, kids are a little bit stiff sometimes, and if you don’t warm them up to you, and warm them up to each other, they’re not going to want to interact and get educated.”
In the beginning of the year, Johnson lays the foundation for solid relationships through a variety of icebreakers and games that lower individual barriers. From there, it makes it much easier for her to work with kids, and, if necessary, push them to complete work.
At the end of the day, all of her work is aimed at transferring the community within her classroom to the larger community of Craig. Students learn a variety of skills and habits they carry into the real world, so they can contribute positively to the Craig community.
“Even just the skills I model, less than I teach, like how to have good conversations with people by sitting with them and not across from them, or breaking some of those barriers is important,” related Johnson.
By establishing relationships and teaching important skills, Johnson leads students through the high school experience and into the Craig community, ready to engage and impact the larger world around them.
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