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Elisa Johnson, 21 Years at Ascension

Elisa Johnson, Dean of Academics

It’s hard to believe that I am approaching a quarter of a century in the classroom. I’m just a few years away from that milestone, and it will be here before I know it. Much like raising children, the days are long, but the years seem to fly by. When I joined Ascension Academy in 2000, I had no idea what the next twenty-one years would bring. I had big goals for my students, and I could not wait to get started. I lived by the saying “If I’m not leaving tired, then I’m doing something wrong.”

In those days, the littlest things brought great joy. I’ll never forget the day my first whiteboard was installed in my classroom. I think I might have jumped for joy. It’s funny to think about it now that I’ve experienced the dust that it creates and the ghosting that only a pro expo user would know. None of that mattered; I was official, I had a whiteboard. All I needed was my book, a good eraser and some students. That was the perfect mix for great learning to happen.

What I soon realized was that investing in my students far surpassed the classroom. I followed students on the court and celebrated their victories. I encouraged them when they lost and reminded them that “this too shall pass” when things didn’t go the way they planned. In that small environment, I watched students grow and mature, experience all the highs and lows of adolescence and leave our school to conquer their own dreams. We were small, but I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to grow as a teacher within those walls and watch my students outgrow them.

How is that different from today? In so many ways, nothing has changed. Students enter our classrooms with open minds and new school supplies every year. I introduce myself and dive into the same great topics like the Complex Number System and debate about the idea of being able to compare infinities and if zero is the center of the number line. Twenty-one years and we still have great conversations the first week of school. Conversations that get me excited, and I see the students thinking and challenging each other's ideas. My whiteboard gets cleaned a lot the first few weeks of school, I mean a lot, and I love it. I still follow my students on the courts. However, I now get to listen to them practice their songs in choir, I stand in the hall and eavesdrop on the orchestra. I might even choke up a little, especially when I hear Beatles songs floating down the hallway, knowing that’s my kid benefiting from what Ascension has to offer. The conversations are much the same as when I started, and we still have a small feel environment, but who I am as a teacher, the opportunities that our students have, and the way material is delivered have grown tremendously.

Don’t get me wrong, I still get excited over the little things. Maybe now more than ever I believe that if I am not tired when I go home, I am doing something wrong. And that whiteboard...well visit my classroom any day of the week and you will see the ghosting. I’m ok with that. What I know more than anything is that Ascension has offered far more to me than I think I ever brought to the table. For that, I am honored to have given twenty-one years of my teaching career to the home away from the home we call Ascension Academy.

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