Intermediate names Johnston Teacher of the Year


By Lance Catchings

Sixth grade Science teacher Sarah Johnston was selected as the 2018 Teacher of the Year for Liberty Hill Intermediate School.

Johnston, who is passionate about education, is originally from Cambodia and moved to the United States in 1981. After graduating from Victor Valley High School in Victorville, California, she made her way to Central Texas. She got her first job in education as a student aid and that sparked her desire to become an educator.

“I had a non-traditional path to the front of the classroom,” Johnston said.

“I was working with Liberty Hill Intermediate School as a student aid and when my youngest son started kindergarten I decided to go back to school. I felt that I really enjoyed being around the kids so I pursued teaching. I went to Austin Community College then went on to graduate from Texas State University in San Marcos. I got my teaching degree and became a teacher with Liberty Hill Intermediate School.”

Before she became a Science teacher she worked to help struggling students and also taught Social Studies. In the beginning, the thought of heading a full classroom made her apprehensive, but once there she felt right at home.

“I was in a content mastery class before I moved over to Science and Social Studies,” she said.

“My first position was working one-on-one with students. I helped students and did math intervention. When I first switched over I wasn’t sure I was ready for it, but before long I asked if I could stay with science and social studies. It was an opportunity that came along and now I am going on my fifth year and I absolutely love it,” she said.

Johnston said her two sons, Collin and Conner, and her husband Jason are always supportive. She believes the transitional skills she takes as a mother carries over to the classroom.

Her outlook on teaching and learning can be summed up in the three mottos she has posted throughout her classroom. First, allow students to see their own potential and help guide them to pursue their goals. Second, every moment is a teaching and learning opportunity for both teacher and student. And finally, students learn when they are having fun.

“As educators I feel we are just like second parents,” she said. “You want to help, guide and support your students. You see their potential and you want to try to help them reach it. You hope and pray that you are making a difference in your students’ lives. It can be tough at times, but it can also be very rewarding. When you graduate your students it really hits you how much you care about them and will miss them. The first group that I taught will be sophomores this coming year and I still see them around at different events.”

Being named Teacher of the Year was never in Johnston’s plan. In fact it took her by complete surprise. Liberty Hill Intermediate school Principal Josh Curtis sent out an email opening the selection process for teachers to be nominated earlier this year.

“There were four teachers nominated,” she said. “I didn’t know I was one of them until I opened the email and saw my name listed. It was a complete shock to me! After the four finalists were announced, the teachers voted and I was selected. When he announced my name I was not expecting it at all.”

Being respected in your profession is a great feeling no matter the field.

“Knowing that your colleagues respect you as an educator is an amazing feeling,” she said. “When you feel that recognition and you know they feel that way about you is an indescribable feeling. All the work you have done is being seen and recognized. We don’t teach for awards. You just go into the classroom and do your work every day. To be recognized for that is awesome.”

She believes the family first mentality that her campus has adopted is one reason she feels she has had success in the classroom.

“I have heard nightmares from teachers about schools in other districts and I feel very fortunate to work in Liberty Hill ISD,” she said.

“I believe much of what I do is made easier by the support from our administration. We are a very close knit campus community with involved parents and students. When you have the support of your colleagues, staff and administration it is an amazing feeling.

“I know I was chosen to receive this award, but we have a lot of amazing staff on our campus,” she added. “I believe that is because we all feel that sense of cohesiveness. We call ourselves the Intermediate family and I truly believe we have a family environment.”

Johnston will begin her 12th year with Liberty Hill ISD when school begins in the fall. She hopes to continue to share her passion for education and pushing student potential for many years to come.