Winterset’s eighth grade language arts instructor Kenna Johnson and the music industry’s Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin have something in common — both are looking for a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
“Respect is my favorite word,” says Johnson, who has been an instructor for the Winterset school system for the past six years. “That is the first thing I try to establish at the start of the new year.
“And I don’t mean the students should show respect just toward me, but to each other. It is also a mutual thing. If they show me respect, I will respect them as well.”
Johnson earned her bachelor’s degree in English and a degree in secondary teaching, from Central College in Pella.
“I didn’t decide to become a teacher until I was in college,” says Johnson. “I pursued other paths, but the paths just kept leading me back to being a teacher.
“I also loved writing, and I had an excellent English teacher in high school who had a great influence on me.”
She spent her first 10 years in the profession teaching English to 7-12 graders in Essex, which is located in the southwest corner of Iowa. She then spent a year teaching in the ADM school district before making the move to Winterset.
Johnson said she has seen a lot of changes in education over her 17 years — mostly how technology has shaped teaching methods and the way students learn.
“When I began teaching,” says Johnson, “I know I was at least even or a little ahead of the students in terms of using technology. Now I work hard every day just to keep up with the students.”
Johnson says the way people communicate in today’s world has changed dramatically over the last few years because of technology.
“It’s become more conversational communication instead of formal because of things such as texting,” she says. “I teach the students there is nothing wrong with texting, but there is a time and place to use that style as a method of communication.”
In addition to establishing a respectful rapport with her students, Johnson says students need to have guidance and need to know what is expected of them.
“They are at the age where they are still trying to find themselves, and they are starting to realize what potential they have,” she says. “My job is to help them reach their full potential. The best way I can think of to do that is simply be up front them and tell them my expectations.”
Johnson says one of the rewarding parts of her job is having former students keep in contact with her.
“I have had students send me their college papers to look over,” she says. “It means a lot to me that I made that kind of connection.”