George Lucas Educational Foundation

Cynthia E. Johnson

I began teaching at twenty years old, a pit-stop on my way to medical school in 1972. I left thirty-six years later. Teaching became the vocation that I never wanted. My certification is in Special Education, which was just gearing up with the then new federal law. That's when things began to happen, in spite of my five-year & out plan. Back then, I was chastised for having my Chester, Pennsylvania high school Remedial Reading class arranged in a circle. In my next Elementary assignment in Philadelphia, even then, I could see no need for some of my students to be excluded from regular academic class & activities for some part of their day, and sought out teacher colleagues' voluntary support for their inclusion.
At the beginning of my Philadelphia comprehensive high school assignments, even then I could not see the reason or fairness for so many more things. So, even then, I began to feel the irresistible urge to stay and fight for the students. What were the issues, how I could be part of their address, and who could I convince to take this walk with me, was what I faced. So began my journey, beginning with an Expectations vs. Student Achievement seminar to inclusion of all students in academic math to the fight for reestablishment of student lunch program to the developmental teams for the first mini-schools in Philadelphia high schools, to adaptation of academic math content for students with learning disabilities, to participation in the Philadelphia Restructuring Collaborative, to the Philadelphia Writing Project of the University of Pennsylvania where I sought to prove that there wasn't much opportunity for writing in math. I cannot describe my joy and further transformation at finding that I was so wrong.
Realizing that I had been tricked into a vocation chosen by a Power much greater than I,
I acquiesced and began to enjoy my burden. I ended my thirty-six year career (the pit-stop on my way to medical school) as an Urban Education specialist, the Special Education Liaison and Mathematics teacher in a successful magnet high school. I now seek to re-invent myself as a consultant, a facilitator for present teachers seeking strategies for greater success and a teaching mentor of new teachers.
I thoroughly believe in restructuring...continuous education...writing across the curriculum...fighting for students suffering system injustice...parental involvement...& the necessity to move from isolation to collegial, cooperative & unselfish sharing. The profession (if it is to serve all students well) cannot continue to be one's private domain & locked closet of best kept secrets.