Since becoming a teacher at St. Columba School in Oxon Hill, Md. Almost four decades ago, Bill Johnson has been known for teaching students lasting values for life, and also for s ” involve as much as he can to help the school continue its day-to-day operations.
“If something needs to be done, he’s there to do it,” said Christine Patton, principal of St. Columba School. She noted for Johnson, who ranges from the vice-principal of the school and the professor of religion and social studies at the college, to plowing the sidewalks in the winter, helping with necessary repairs that arise, to directing the students during morning and afternoon security patrols. . “He’s the first here in the morning to open the building,” she added.
May 27 started out as a typical morning for Johnson at St. Columba School.
“We had problems with the air conditioning unit in preschool and kindergarten,” he said. “I had worked before school to try to make it work.”
But when he stepped out of the main entrance to the school, a surprise awaited him. Members of the St. Columba School community – students, faculty, and staff, as well as some graduates – stood there with balloons, while representatives from the Archdiocese of Washington Catholic Schools office were here to announce that Johnson is one of 10 Golden Apple Teacher Award recipients for 2021. Teachers in Catholic schools across the Archdiocese receiving this honor supported by the Donahue Family Foundation are recognized for their teaching excellence and dedication to Catholic Education and receive a certificate, a golden apple and a check for $ 5,000.
“I was thrilled,” Johnson said. “It was also a lesson in humility, because children and parents mattered so much.” The veteran educator said he was especially moved that several St. Columba alumni who now attend high school and college returned that morning to congratulate him. “It’s one of the most rewarding feelings a teacher has. When they come back as young adults, it really touches your heart. “
In an interview a week later, the manager of St. Columba congratulated his colleague, saying, “He’s one of a kind. Johnson has been recognized for “just being an exceptional teacher,” she said.
“He’s so full of faith. He just sees the good in every student, he just sees the potential in every student. He never gives up on them, ”Patton said. “The things he taught them in class will stay with them for life.
That morning, Johnson was in the school’s multipurpose room, joining the students in folding the dining room tables in preparation for the next day’s graduation reception, and he stopped to think about his teaching career at St. Columba School which began in 1983.
“I always wanted to be a teacher,” he says.
The 1977 graduate of Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville said he was shaped by what the Holy Cross brothers taught him there, “to see yourself as God sees you, with infinite love, ( that) there is goodness and kindness in each person… The Saint The Crusader brothers have always seen the good in each person.
After graduating from Salisbury State College, he worked for a year with McHale Landscape Design, a company run by two other McNamara graduates. After learning about a teaching position at St. Columba School, he was hired there and never left.
“It was just like home,” Johnson said, noting the support he received from the pastor, principal and his fellow teachers. “I was the youngest teacher to come in, and they took me under their wing.”
This fall, he will begin his 39e year there.
“There is a spirit in this community, a sense of benevolence, concern for one another, faith and support for children, parishioners and parents. It’s more than a school, it’s a family, ”he said.
Johnson, who has four grown children and is a long-time member of Most Holy Rosary Parish in Upper Marlboro, recalled a religion class given to Bishop McNamara by Brother David Andrews, who also taught the English and later served as school president. Students in this class discussed the gospel of Saint Matthew.
Reflecting on the gospel and how it relates to your daily life “gives you a balance in life, that God is first in all things,” said the longtime religion teacher at St. Columba.
In a statement nominating Johnson for the Golden Apple Award, Father Gary Villanueva, pastor of St. Columba, said, “He serves and supports the parish and the school as a role model of servant leadership for our staff and our staff. students.
The priest noted that Johnson shares his faith in various ways, helping to prepare eighth graders for Confirmation, coordinating school Masses and involving students in preparation for and participation in liturgies, and as a force driving force behind the school’s Stations of the Cross during Lent and its life. Rosary in October.
Johnson said he was trying to give students “the assurance that the Spirit is always with them and will guide them, comfort them, and lead them to goodness and happiness.” The teacher said he hopes St. Columba graduates leave school knowing that God loves them and is always with them, in good times and bad.
The veteran educator said that the pandemic closure of Catholic school campuses that began in the spring of 2020 “has allowed me to develop new skills. Being an older teacher, not having grown up with computers, it was a little intimidating.
He said Patton, the principal of the school, had told teachers to be ready to switch to distance education and ask their students to bring home all the necessary materials.
“We haven’t missed a day. We started distance learning on Monday, ”Johnson said. “My coworkers taught me at Google Classroom, how to use Zoom, how to get back after I got locked (from the system).”
St. Columba School resumed virtual classes last fall, and in January, students gradually returned to in-person learning, with the option of staying home to take classes online. By the end of the school year, around 70 percent of the students were attending classes there.
Johnson said it was very moving to hear the sound of laughter in the hallways after the students returned. “The teachers and students enjoyed being together again,” he said.
Noting that the eighth graders’ graduation would be the next day, he said, “It will be a little tearful. (It’s) a great class, an amazing bunch of young people, grateful for what we’ve had ”despite the challenges they’ve faced over the past year.
A week earlier, Johnson – known as “Mr. J” to his students – had once again chaperoned the eighth graders on their traditional outing to Patuxent River Park in Upper Marlboro, where they did hiking, kayaking and a barbecue afterward.
Johnson said he always looks forward to coming to school every day, where his students, a variety of chores and possible repairs await him.
“I feel blessed,” he said, adding, “It’s more than a job. It is a vocation. You feel called to this.