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Rothrock Award Winner Finds Home At Inner-city Schools

posted Oct 12, 2011 in ALUMNI

The 2011 Dayton Rothrock Alumni Fellow Award recipient has a heart for students who need a little extra love an attention. After all, it was caring professors at McPherson College who changed Anna Johnson’s life.

“These students don’t have a lot of support,” Johnson said. “They need someone to count on – at least one person who’s dedicated to them.”

McPherson College names a Rothrock Award annually to an alumnus educator. Recipients of the award must demonstrate an orientation to service, a commitment to making all students successful, a dedication to collaboration and an effective blending of the art and science of teaching.

Johnson, a 1995 graduate of McPherson College, said it was the personal attention from those professors that got her on the right track with her teaching career. After graduation, she taught kindergarten and first grade at Wadsworth Elementary School in Chicago while she earned her master’s degree. She then taught at Edwardsville Elementary School in Kansas, but felt that she should return to Chicago. She returned to teach first grade at Claremont Academy, located in one of the toughest Chicago neighborhoods. She now works in a lead technology position, working to get technology into the classroom and to give technological solutions to struggling students.

Johnson said she discovered that knowing the material was essential, but it’s useless unless the teacher can create a relationship with the students and show that they understand and care.

“You really have to enjoy it, and you have to enjoy all facets of it,” she said. “It’s a lot of hard work and it definitely takes a lot of dedication. But on the other hand, you don’t do something like this unless you also get rewards from it.”

Johnson encounters and reaches out to students who are struggling in school and feeling angry and disconnected. Helping to help those kids find success and see hope is what keeps her going, she said.

“Teaching in the inner city was one of those things where you didn’t know you wanted it until you got it,” she said. “It has definitely been for me a gift that I didn’t even know that I was looking for.”

Johnson said her philosophy as a teacher is to avoid thinking there’s one right way to do things, but that teachers need to adjust to each situation and each student.

“You can never quite figure teaching out, and that’s because of who’s involved,” she said. “For me, that’s the best part – the ever-changing kids and the families. And I think that’s the part that’s really the hook for me. I am able to be creative and adaptable. It’s what I love.”

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