Johnson is district teacher of the year

Leslie Silverman

Astonished. That’s the word this year’s Hill City School District teacher of the year used to describe her reaction to learning about the award.

Kim Johnson found out she is the 2019-20 Teacher of the Year while watching superintendent Blake Gardner’s end of the year PowerPoint. She was drinking a cup of coffee at the time.

“I was not expecting a slide to be about me,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s childhood dream was to become a teacher. She began her teaching career as a library media specialist in Rapid City.

“After teaching researching and library skills to kindergarten through fifth grade students for five years, I accepted a fourth grade position,” Johnson said. “Then taking graduate classes for reading. I was then offered a sixth grade reading position at North Middle School in Rapid City.”

Johnson furthered her own education at this time by pursuing a master’s degree in curriculum with an endorsement in reading with an emphasis in technology. In 2008 Johnson made the move from Rapid City Schools to the Hill City School District as the district’s first grade teacher.

Not afraid to step out of her comfort zone, Johnson accepted a reading position in the middle school to teach sixth grade through eighth grade reading classes in 2011.

Superintendent Blake Gardner muses, “We worked together so well when I was the elementary principal in 2010-11. Then I went to the middle school and brought Kim with me.”

Johnson has since returned back to the first grade classroom.

“First grade is one of the best grades ever...It is such a fun grade and you are laying the foundation for so many math skills, and you get to teach kids how to read,” she said. “It is the best feeling ever when it clicks for each one — some take longer than others but it is a magical feeling every single time.”

Gardner describes Johnson as a passionate teacher who makes a difficult subject fun.

“I have heard kids come out of her class saying, ‘that was so much fun. We did  the alphabet with shaving cream.’ Every day is an exciting adventure in Kim’s class and she makes learning fun,” Gardner said.

Johnson knows the key to success in the classroom is to accommodate her lessons to meet the needs of each student.

“All my experiences have given me the ability to see and experience the different learning styles students possess,” Johnson said. “It has helped me individualize my lessons to meet their needs.”

Johnson is always looking for ways to grow outside the classroom.

“With every person I have come into contact with, I can honestly say I have taken something from their teaching and values to help me be a better teacher,” she said.

Johnson is an innovator in her field and is not afraid of trying new things.

“I was told a great teacher puts aside ego, fear and personal comfort to do what is best for students,” she said.

Like many teachers in the 2019-20 school year, Johnson had to tackle the uncharted waters of distance learning.

“At first, it was a bit of a challenge,” she said. “I was blown away by my students’ remote learning performances and the support of their parents and families. We accepted this challenge together. I started Zooming right away with my first grade class; students had individualized reading and group learning sessions with me. Some families led science experiments on Zoom with my class.”

Humble, Johnson credits her success to those around her.

“It’s because of my students, their families and the great leadership of our schools that distant learning was successful,” she said.

User login