Emily Johns voted as April's Staff Member of the Month

Posted by Jeremy Tepper on 5/17/2024

Staff member of the month: Emily Johns

When asked to pick her favorite part about teaching, Emily Johns has a difficult time narrowing it down. She loves seeing her students grow, and she loves building strong relationships with them. Seeing them improve their reading skills is awesome, but she also has a soft spot for science.

Perhaps most of all, though, Ms. Johns just enjoys empowering her students, and showing them just how much they’re capable of.

“I try to empower them. I try to have high expectations and empower them to make good choices. I always say, ‘you have a big, smart brain in your head.’ I try to get them to have that growth mindset,” said Ms. Johns, a 1st grade teacher in the district. 

“Some of the kids aren’t always used to being empowered. They might be used to thinking that they can’t do something. So helping them feel empowered and showing them steps and strategies to figure things out is really important.”

Ms. Johns has built strong relationships with her students, and her peers have taken notice, voting her as April’s Staff Member of the Month. 

One coworker praised Ms. Johns for always being happy, while another pointed out her patience and genuine care for her students.

“She has been a wonderful addition to our teaching staff over the past few years,” said one coworker.

Ms. Johns took a slightly different path into formal education, as compared to many of her peers. After deliberating between get her degree in teaching and environmental resource management, Ms. Johns opted for the latter. She went on to work in the education department at Phipps Conservatory for four years.

“It was a really great opportunity because it gave me a chance to explore education, while doing something I had my qualification in,” said Ms. Johns. “I was very fortunate that I got to work with a variety of students. I worked with 2-4 year olds, and all the way up to our high school program and literally every age in between.”

While she enjoyed the job, she was missing the opportunity to build long-term relationships with her students, knowing just how much she enjoyed seeing growth and improvement. So she went back to college, getting her master’s degree in early childhood education, before subbing at Pittsburgh Public and then the Duquesne City School District, before being hired full-time.

She taught 2nd grade last school year, but moved to 1st grade this year. While she loves both grades, the switch has been fitting, as it’s allowed her to observe and be a catalyst for so much early growth in her students.

“I get so excited when they get a new concept, or when I can help them see their growth because kids don’t always realize how much they are changing and growing,” said Ms. Johns. “I love getting to work with them on those early skills, and seeing that reading development has been really, really gratifying.”

“And seeing them develop social skills is awesome, too. Getting to see them use skills we practiced, like taking a break when they’re too excited, or using words that we practiced with a friend.”

Ms. Johns has also been on the ground floor of the district’s efforts to implement World of Work, a career exploration framework and collaboration with the Avonworth, Elizabeth Forward, and South Fayette Township School Districts. She helped pilot it at the 2hd grade level last year, and now 1st grade this year. While she didn’t expect to be a part of such a new, exciting initiative, Ms. Johns has tackled the task head-on, enjoying the collaboration between her fellow teachers and partner school districts.

“It’s been exciting. I’ve always liked being creative and sharing ideas. The team here, there is so much potential in our teaching staff,” said Ms. Johns.

“It’s very exciting to get to be involved in something new.”