Jessica Johnson never had any doubt about what she would spend her life doing. The fourth-grade teacher has education running through her veins.
“I come from a lineage of teachers,” Johnson said of her mom, dad, brother, sister, aunts and uncles, all of whom are educators.
“I guess my family had a really big influence.”
Besides her inherent knack for teaching, Johnson genuinely loves what she does.
After graduating from Bemidji State in 2004, Johnson, 29, moved to Brainerd to start her career in the classroom.
Johnson arrives at Lowell at 7.a.m. every day to prepare for another day in the classroom. This year she has 28 students in her classroom, a number that feels low to her compared to years past.
Johnson has spent her entire tenure with fourth-graders at Lowell Elementary School in Brainerd. “I’ve always wanted to teach fourth grade,” Johnson said. “I love that they can tie their shoes.”
Johnson said her first group of fourth-graders are now juniors in high school — a concept she has had a hard time coming to terms with.
“It makes me feel really old,” she said with a laugh, adding that she always looks forward to visits from former students. “I love seeing where they are now.”
In college, Johnson majored in elementary education with an emphasis in social studies and did her student teaching at Whittier School in Brainerd before moving to Lowell. Even with all of her preparation, Johnson credits the classroom with being the greatest test for teachers.
“I don’t know if you truly know what teaching is until you’re actually with the kids,” she said. “They’re so full of life. They are ready to learn.”
Johnson said one thing she loves about her job and the staff she works with is the collective commitment to teach more than just the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic.
“One of the main things we want to instill is character qualities — integrity, hard work. We want them to be lifelong learners,” she said. “I can give them information and make them learn it, but I want them to love it.”
Johnson teaches all of the core subjects in her class, but said the subject she most enjoys teaching is reading.
“Although, if I get sick of one subject, the next is always more fun,” she said. “Even though its a lot of work to prep for them, it’s worth it.”’
Since becoming a teacher, Johnson has also become a parent. She and her husband, Josh, have two children — Siri, 2, and Owen, 8 months.
“Being a mom gives you good perspective,” Johnson said. “I have someone’s child. They trust you with the most important thing in their lives. Everything you say matters.
“I guess it’s kind of an honor that they let their kids spend the day with me.”
SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5879.