Johnson gives back to students, faculty

Published 12:56 am Thursday, October 13, 2011

Who is Phedora Johnson?

She is a Spanish and French teacher at Washington High School, coach of the tennis team, and WHS’s 2010 Teacher of the Year.

On top of all that, she is the president of the School Improvement Team, a representative to the North Carolina Association of Educators, freshman class adviser, and she is on the discipline committee.

Phedora Johnson

“I consider myself an all-purpose servant at school,” Johnson said. “I love serving teachers as much as students.”

Johnson is very passionate about teaching for several reasons – first and foremost is her desire to give back to the community in which she grew up. Johnson is a Washington native and went to high school at WHS. She attended Columbia University in New York before working on Wall Street. It was her desire to give back that brought her home to Washington to teach.

She says that as a person “you’re just so grateful for the people and places who made you who you are … I felt like I had an obligation to give back.”

“I knew Washingtonians, and I knew people in the education system here, and they were role models. I couldn’t help but gravitate towards them,” Johnson said.

Now she is teaching alongside some of her old teachers, an opportunity she considers a great honor.

“I got that – I got the best teachers – and I just simply want to duplicate that,” she said.

Another reason for Johnson’s passion about teaching is that she sees it as an opportunity to help kids grow up with more of a global education – something she thinks is very important, particularly in today’s world.

“You don’t want to completely dismiss another culture, especially when they’re able to take away from your economy,” Johnson said. “Sometimes you have to look at a culture and say, ‘Let’s see how many things they’re doing right, and let’s see how many things we need to be doing better’.”

Johnson tries to expose students to new ideas and get them to think in ways they might not have thought in before.

“I want people to think beyond themselves,” Johnson said.

One way she does this is by using vocabulary words to start classroom discussions on different topics like pollution, politics, and environmental concerns. She thinks that teaching culture is an important part of a language class. By teaching students about different cultures, they can have a better understanding of why people are different than them. This is particularly important in today’s world of globalized economies, political turmoil and social networking.

“I think war would be nonexistent if we would embrace each other’s cultures and understand there is absolutely nothing wrong with someone not looking like you, sounding like you … being so entirely different,” Johnson said.