School of Education Graduate Provided ‘Opportunities to Grow’
Christian Johnson didn’t see herself as a teacher until a mission trip to Haiti awakened a passion in her.
In late 2011, nearly two years after a devastating earthquake rattled the island nation, Johnson visited the country to work directly with young children.
“My heart was full,” she said. “I knew I wanted to work in a classroom setting and love children and care for them. I had some great teachers who were there for some tough times in my life, and I realized I wanted to be there for children who need someone.”
Johnson is graduating this semester from Dalton State with a degree in early childhood education. Her passion for teaching and mentoring to small children has grown through the years as she has gained more experience both abroad and stateside.
“The kids in Haiti had nothing,” she said. “It was right before Christmas, and we brought them small gifts in shoeboxes. When I went back to Haiti a year later, they had kept all we had given them. They had a desire for affection and love, and they’re eager to learn. I don’t feel like that’s far off from children here. They have that passion for learning, for picking up something new and taking that home with them.”
Johnson originally went to another school and received an associate degree, but the tuition became too burdensome to pursue a bachelor’s degree there. So she turned to the Gilmer Campus, just a few miles from her Ellijay home, in 2016.
“It was closer to home, and the tuition is amazing,” she said. “It was the best decision. I have been going full force ever since.
“I have been beyond blessed to have worked beside Dr. Sharon Hixon, the dean of the School of Education, and Dr. Jacquelyn Mesco, one of my professors,” Johnson said. “They do a lot of work in the community and get us involved too. So we have even more experience in the field working with not only students but their parents. It has made me better as a professional and provided additional educational opportunities for me.”
The School of Education is active in local communities and schools providing additional instruction outside the classroom to students, as well as their parents. One program teaches parents how to help their children with reading and math. Another outreach gives K-12 students books throughout the summer and allows them to learn more about literacy and science. The school also hosts a summer camp geared toward improving literacy. All of those programs give teacher candidates at Dalton State more experience in the field.
“Christian Johnson has been an amazing student to work with,” Mesco said. “She has gone out of her way, even before she was in the School of Education, to help and learn as much as possible. She is dedicated and hard-working and will make an amazing teacher. I have been so pleased to work with her these last few semesters, and I am so proud of her.”
Also thanks to the program, Johnson has been able to attend and present at conferences, as well as study abroad in Mexico.
“I learned more on that trip than a lot of other experiences,” she said. “The School of Education has provided me so many opportunities to grow. Every experience I had through the school gave me behavioral management techniques and teaching techniques. This program requires a lot more hours in the classroom than many other programs. All these hours set me up for success and helped me set my students up for success as well.”
Johnson points to the faculty and staff within the School of Education as a reason for her success as a student.
“Roadrunner Nation has been a wild ride,” she said. “I have loved every minute of it. Having professors that are so personable and deeply care about my success in and out of the classroom has been amazing. I don’t feel like you get that everywhere. The professors really want you to succeed.”
Carol Danahy, Johnson’s advisor, was instrumental in helping her through college.
“Carol was amazing,” Johnson said. “She sat me down and talked me through everything. She followed up through email. She always made sure if I had a question, she found the answer for me. It took a lot of anxiety off me. Carol and professors have truly been like family to me, they have helped me through so much.”
When Johnson graduates, she’s not looking to be hired into a specific grade level. Teaching any grade is rewarding, but she hopes to find a position in Ellijay where she has done her student teaching.
“I just want to be a teacher,” she said. “That’s my passion. I am so excited to be graduating and putting myself in the career I feel like I’m destined to be in. To be able to integrate myself into my career is amazing. It’s sad to graduate because Dalton State has been such a great resource for me, but I’m excited for what the future holds. I’m very grateful for the professors especially in the education program. They have been my support. Anytime I’ve needed something they have pushed me to reach my potential and go further, and for that, I am thankful. I am very proud to be a Roadrunner, and I plan to run boldly and teach boldly.”