- Nina Johnson
Program / Year
Master of Arts in Teaching ’18
Secondary Social Studies
Chandler, AZ and Burbank, CA
(I currently live in Portland)
What led you to enroll at Lewis & Clark's Graduate School of Education and Counseling?
I was attracted to Lewis & Clark’s strong emphasis on social justice education. Since I majored in sociology, I wanted to be able to explore teaching through a sociological lens. It was so great to find a program like this. I think LC meets and exceeds my expectations for a social justice education.
Who or what inspired you to pursue your chosen field of study?
I had a wonderful professor at my local community college back in Los Angeles who inspired my sociological imagination. I was a music major at the time, and after having his class I fell in love with sociology. For as long as I can remember, I’ve thought of myself as a teacher, and combining my experience in sociology with a career in teaching just seemed like a great match. (Now all I have to do is fit music in there somewhere and we’ll be all set!)
What does social justice mean to you?
Social justice to me is recognizing inequalities in society and being willing to stand up for what you know is right. It is being able to see the biases and/or privilege you may have in your own life and seeing through the lens of someone else and making informed decisions. Social justice is based on self-reflection and taking action.
How do you hope to apply your social justice education in your chosen career?
It is my goal to use my social justice education as a tool to be a reflective and thoughtful educator. One of the biggest ways I can make an impact as a social justice educator is through using material that represents a diverse array of perspectives and issues, and allowing students to reflect on the material and how it relates to their own lived experiences.
Where have you been working/interning as a student, and what does that work entail?
I have been working at Grant High School at Marshall Campus, where I am teaching ninth-grade Modern World History. In my classes I like to use material that represents a broad range of perspectives. I often use peer-supported strategies where my students have structured time to discuss the material with each other, and student-centered reflective writing to help them synthesize what they’ve learned. Something that makes Grant unique is the “Race Forward” program. The goal of the program is to normalize conversations about race between students and staff. On Race Forward days, students all sit in a circle and discuss a relevant prompt with a discussion protocol. It has been very engaging to be involved in this experience.
What is the most fun part of your program?
The most fun part of the program is teaching and interacting with the kids! Also learning from my cohort members’ experiences.
What is the hardest part of your program?
The hardest part of the program is designing lesson plans that work for everyone! It’s a steep learning curve, but the more I practice, the more I learn where I can be flexible.
How would you describe your graduate school experience in one sentence?
Graduate school at Lewis & Clark has been a deeply introspective and life changing experience.
Who has been your most influential professor, and why?
This is a really tough question because all of my professors have influenced me in positive ways! Two that I can think of who have been uniquely influential to me are Dr. Dyan Watson “Dr. DW” and Dr. Lina Darwich. First, I chose Dr. DW because she has been incredibly supportive of me personally and of my educational experience. Moreover, she has provided us with amazing “guest lessons” where teachers come in from the field and give us real lessons involving fun, engaging and hands-on activities along with vital social justice concepts. Secondly, Dr. Lina Darwich has been exceptional with her wonderfully honest stories of her teaching experiences. Lina directly relates these stories to the important issues we face as teachers in and out of the classroom, and this has personally helped me so much.
What is a unique perspective you bring to your cohort?
I am one of the only two mothers in my cohort, so I give the parents’ perspective behind teaching. Since I had my son when I was a teenager, I’ve been a mother for more than half my life! My son is high school now. Also, since I am a singer and musician, I was able to come together with three other musicians in my cohort and make a song together for a creative project that we shared in one of our classes. I hope that this parent and creative perspective has been helpful to my cohort-mates.
What do you think of Portland?
I love Portland so much! I moved from Los Angeles almost three years ago and I’m still so appreciative of the natural beauty here.