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The City Journals

Teacher spotlight on Lincoln Elementary’s Johanna McMullin

Dec 02, 2016 01:54PM ● By Aspen Perry

Johanna McMullin leads her sixth-grade class in reviewing the math lesson for the day. (Aspen Perry/City Journals)

By Aspen Perry | [email protected]

With 18 years in the teaching profession, Lincoln Elementary sixth-grade teacher, Johanna McMullin is a firm believer of the idea that investing in others means they will invest in themselves. 

Although McMullin’s mother had been a teacher, McMullin attributes her decision to teach from watching her father in his humanitarian pursuits. 

“Teaching to me is one of the best professions in which you get to experience other people…If you allow yourself, it can give you the opportunity to be exposed, enriched and supported through a real life ‘walkabout’ with people of varied race, religion, ideas, and culture,” McMullin said. 

Enjoying the richness of various cultures lends insight into why McMullin has spent the majority of her career, 15 years to be exact, teaching at Lincoln Elementary, a school known for a diverse student population. 

McMullin also believes another reason she has stayed at Lincoln for this long is the bonds she creates with her students and their families.

“You start to teach the siblings of former students. I see the infants I once held now are my students. I feel, in a small part, a member of their familial stability and predictability,” McMullin said. 

McMullin’s love and dedication to her students does not go unnoticed. 

“[Johanna] is very dedicated to our school…She has a great way of supporting kids. Especially those some may call the ‘tough kids’. Her experience is a great value to our school,” Principal Afton Lambson said. 

Teachers often agree one of their top challenges is meeting the needs of individual students, especially if their class is large. Despite having 29 students with diverse backgrounds and learning needs, McMullin’s experience shines through. 

Instead of seating the children at side-by-side desks facing the front of the room, she arranges her classroom with round tables allowing the children to work in groups. 

“I think the biggest challenge as a teacher is meeting the individual needs of my students. [However], I try and maximize the capabilities of each student to benefit another. This not only supports my teaching and their learning, but raises up one individual and builds the other, solidifying our classroom as a working system with similar goals and support,” McMullin said. 

Watching this in action, students remain eager and engaged in learning throughout the math lesson. First, by reviewing math homework and going over the day’s math lesson as a class, followed by time to work, first with their assigned group, and then with a group of their choosing.  

Another aspect of the room are the books and thought-invoking quotes McMullin displays and teaches to her student. This includes a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote that emphasizes the class dynamic of learning from one another: “Every man is my superior in some way, and in that I can learn from him and be a better person.”

Students are not the only ones in the class learning. McMullin’s investment in fellow colleagues is also prevalent. 

Tiffany Liddell, an ESL specialist who assists in McMullin’s class, said, “I enjoy learning from Johanna. Working in her classroom has been a huge learning experience for me, and Johanna has been just as supportive of my learning as she has her students.” 

Given the high praise McMullin receives from colleagues and students, it would appear her way of adapting a humanitarian ideology to her method of teaching by investing in those around her is paying off. 

When asked what she loves about teaching, McMullin answered, “My personal teaching mantra has been: ‘If you invest in those you are teaching, personally, they will in turn, reinvest in themselves’.”