A Presidential Honor

Julia Zaksek , Jr. managing editor

On Aug. 22, President Barack Obama named the recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. This prestigious award is only given to two teachers per U.S. state or territory. Hundreds of applications are submitted, and former Allen High School anatomy teacher Cara Johnson was named one of the winner

“As soon as we heard she was nominated we had no doubt that she’d win,” fellow anatomy teacher Brayden Bunting said.

Applying for the award is long and involved process. It involves letters of recommendation, a 22-page application and a 45-minute video of the teacher teaching. It took over a year for Johnson to learn the results.

“It was a pretty intense application,” Johnson said.

However, she believes this arduous process and the long wait were worth it.

“I feel incredibly humbled,” Johnson said. “This is the top recognition a teacher can get.”

Although Johnson has moved on from classroom teaching, working as the high school science instructional specialist, her students and colleagues describe her as an energetic, positive teacher who cares deeply about her students and their success.

“She was always available when you needed her,” former student Jillian Smith said. “She would answer any questions you had.”

Smith, who graduated in 2014, credits Johnson’s flexible curriculum for helping her succeed not only in anatomy but also in her college classes.

“She had a schedule she wanted you to follow, but she understood that you had extracurricular actives and other classes,” Smith said. “You could turn in things when you were ready.”

 However, Johnson still held her students to a high standard. She expected her students to learn the information and learn it well, but in terms of learning strategies, she again showed her adaptability.

“We were able to experiment with what was the best learning strategy for us personally, and she even encouraged us to try to learn different ways,” Smith said.

Johnson said she believes the administration’s acceptance of her teaching methods was one of the main reasons behind her award.

“Because Allen gave me that freedom to be unique in that classroom, I think I was able to win this award,” Johnson said. “It’s hard for me to take 100 percent credit.”

As for the future, Johnson plans to continue working as the science instructional specialist at the high school that gave her the freedom to challenge her students to the same degree of excellence she holds herself.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do when I grow up, but I plan on being in this position for several years,” Johnson said.“I am really enjoying it.”