Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence

Janet Johnson, Clyde Boyd Middle School, Sand Springs

2018 Medal for Excellence in Secondary Teaching

Janet Johnson, winner of the Medal for Excellence in Secondary Teaching, teaches seventh and eighth-grade science and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) at Clyde Boyd Middle School in Sand Springs. Johnson is a National Board-Certified educator who utilizes real-world problem-solving and service learning to make science engaging, meaningful and fun.

“My greatest accomplishment in teaching was presenting a student who was born without a hand with a 3-D printed prosthetic hand created by students in my class,” Johnson said. After receiving a grant for a 3-D printer, Johnson challenged her seventh-graders to collaboratively design a plastic hand for a fellow student. Not only was he able to pick up an object for the first time, but he has gone paddle boarding in the ocean and lifted weights with his new hand.

“My students understand that learning is about gathering information to solve a real-world problem,” Johnson said. “Science is not just a subject in school, but has a higher purpose … it exists to improve human lives.”

Johnson leads a paperless classroom and has received more than $30,000 in grants to provide the latest technology to enhance student learning. Currently, her students are working on creating therapeutic toys for multi-handicapped students in the district. Her students participated in mock crime scene investigations that require blood typing, finger printing and DNA analysis to solve a murder mystery. After Johnson attended a summer space camp, she guided students in making landers, rovers and water filtration systems for a Mars mission.

Johnson extends learning beyond the classroom walls, having students perform water quality testing to analyze the health of the local river. She also takes a group of students to the Florida Everglades each year to learn about conservation, ecology and career opportunities. As a result, some of her students are pursuing careers in marine biology and hydroelectric engineering.

A 2018 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year finalist, Johnson also has created an after-school STEM club that meets twice each week and launched a schoolwide STEM challenge.

“It is Janet’s core belief that a student will have more success if they are learning something meaningful,” said colleague Jill Sandberg. “Her mantra has served her well over the years and is woven into everything she does, from sponsoring clubs to mentoring fellow teachers and assessing her students.”