Story by Payten Pearsall

I haven’t always lived in Person County. When I was in 8th grade I moved from Granville County to Timberlake. Though I undeniably missed home that first year, the following year (my freshman year) was, to my surprise, much better thanks to one of my all-time favorite teachers, Mr. Johnson. He taught me world history and much more.

I met Mr. Johnson even before he was my teacher. My sister was in his class the year before, she always talked about how awesome he was and how much she loved his class. My first encounter with him gave me that “I like him already” feeling. As a student, you don’t get that vibe very often. He is a phenomenal teacher and an amazing person that genuinely cares for all of his students, their wellbeing, and how they are doing in school. Mr. Johnson pushes his students to do better, especially when he knows they can. Every day, I was always excited to go to his class, even when I was having a bad day. He always knows what to say to just about every problem or concern any of his present and former students may have.

There was one day I was having an awful day. I walked into Mr. Johnson’s class a lot quieter than usual. I did my work and didn’t ask nearly as many questions as I normally did. I remember him looking at me, he knew something was wrong. When he asked, I told him I was fine. To my surprise he held me after class, he knew I was holding something back and wanted to help with whatever it was affecting my ability to learn.

Mr. Johnson cares more for his students than most other teachers. Every time I see him he asks how I’m doing as a whole as well as in school. Recently I went to see him for assistance in civics, he was more than happy to help. He loves seeing his students excel even after they have moved on.

He teaches all of his classes differently based on the characteristics of the students. My sister’s class was very competitive and made good grades so they did more fun things like raps about the curriculum and had multiple “mock trials”. My class had only two “mock trials” and that was about it for the fun stuff. That was because some of us studied and made good test grades, but most of the students were friends and were less competitive. In the class after mine he made most of them learn on their own and gave them more work than usual because the majority wouldn’t study. Mr. Johnson sets his classes up ahead of time then finds what works best for those students.

One day I asked Mr. Johnson the cliché question, “Why did you want to become a teacher?” I expected him to answer as many other teachers would, “I love watching the light in a student’s eyes when they finally get it” or “This generation is the future and they need to be taught how to do things right”. Mr. Johnson on the other hand, explained how those cliché answers were part of his answer, but he also said “As a teacher you get to see your students grow. Especially in high school you see them as freshman and they become seniors and walk that stage and just see how far they’ve come”. He believes each student deserves an equal opportunity and is willing to give it to them.

Almost every one of his students will tell you how awesome Mr. Johnson is. There’s a large portion of his former students who come back from college to see him or after school go to his room just to talk about what’s going on in their everyday lives. Some students discuss sports, others discuss academics while some just talk to him like he’s a counselor.

Everybody has at least one teacher that made a difference in their life. For me and many others, that is Mr. Johnson.

Payten Pearsall is a student at Person High School in Jamie Flowers’ English class.

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