Kalamazoo educator named one of the Regional Teachers of the Year

Kalamazoo County

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan’s education department recently announced the top 10 Regional Teachers of the Year and one of them is in the Kalamazoo school district.

“I was surprised and, frankly, just honored to be nominated,” said James Johnson, a history teacher and girls softball coach at Loy Norrix High School. “It was very unexpected.”

In one of the most difficult years to be a teacher, Johnson thrived. The students were no longer in the classroom, so he did his best to bring the classroom to them.

“I think communication has been the thing I’ve heard the most positive feedback from parents,” he said. “So just trying to keep parents involved and in as much of the loop as possible and be transparent with students about how things will work.”

A new format meant new expectations, and Johnson was quick to come up with a game plan.

“Some of the best practices that I found were really just trying to stick to a simple set of routines that students can expect and follow every day,” Johnson said.

A parent took notice and nominated him, and that did not come as a surprise to his students.

“He made everything really comfortable and he taught us all to stay calm and do the best we can,” said Kendyl Kirshman, a junior at Loy Norrix High School.

She said that Johnson was in tune with her class’ mental outlook during the pandemic, and that made him relatable.

“Something that makes him special is that he’s a human being before a teacher, which makes students able to gravitate toward him a bit more,” Kirshman said.

He made the virtual space his very own by showing commitment to his students and their educations, seeing the silver lining in all of it.

“I think they’ve learned a lot. I think they’ve learned a lot about themselves and how they learn best,” Johnson said. “And hopefully they bring those habits back when they come back to school and are excited to see friends again.”

Johnson and the other nine regional winners will soon be interviewed to become Teacher of the Year for the whole state and become our candidate for National Teacher of the Year.

Kalamazoo Public Schools will return to in-person learning next school year.

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