- Nina Johnson
Program / Year
Master of Arts in Teaching ’18
What led you to enroll at Lewis & Clark's Graduate School of Education and Counseling?
Lewis & Clark has a heavy focus on social justice in education, and this is something that I am very passionate about.
Who or what inspired you to pursue your chosen field of study?
A myriad of experiences ultimately led me to pursue secondary science education. I worked in the medical field for 5 years, and through that work I realized that the part of my job I loved most was teaching and helping patients to understand the processes or labs that they needed. I also traveled to Central America two different summers during my undergrad to do some medical and public health education in extremely rural areas. These experiences were incredibly humbling and opened my mind to the possibility of education as a career.
What does social justice mean to you?
Every person has the opportunity to succeed in a meaningful way, whether it be socially, academically, or professionally. Providing the support and structure necessary for all students to have this opportunity is where social justice is the most vital piece. Differentiating what structure and support means for the individual student is what is important to me and being a teacher who is in their corner while also challenging them intellectually so that their learning is meaningful to them. Through this partnership of learning, students will feel empowered to pursue their passions, wherever those passions take them after grade school.
How do you hope to apply your social justice education in your chosen career?
I hope to help bring graduation rates up, for students of color in particular. There are obvious patterns to graduation rates, and success in the classroom, or feelings of success or support, makes a huge impact on this. I can see this in my classroom and having the opportunity to help change a student’s trajectory is something we as educators should all strive for. I also plan to teach science in an inclusive manner, meaning that I directly address social inequity issues that permeate throughout science historically and today, such as demographics of featured scientists, research credit, and access to healthcare, which directly impacts students and their families daily. My hope is that by teaching science through this lens, students will develop scientific literacy, empathy for others’ struggles professionally and socially, and potentially be inspired to pursue a career in science!
Where have you been working/interning as a student, and what does that work entail?
I have been interning at Wilsonville High School as a teacher candidate. I have been teaching 9th grade biology and will be co-teaching a geology elective soon as well. Working in a school as a teacher candidate goes beyond teaching; learning how to plan effective lessons and units for all students to have success has been a consistent exploration, as well as grading equitably to meet students where they’re at in science education in that moment.
What is the most fun part of your program?
Definitely student-teaching; working with my students reminds me every day why I am entering the profession.
What is the hardest part of your program?
Time management, I think. Because the program is accelerated and condensed, staying ahead of the game has been essential to continued success in the program and being able to apply what I am learning to my classroom.
How would you describe your graduate school experience in one sentence?
Grad school has been the most challenging, most intrinsically rewarding experience I have had in my life to date, and I would happily do it over again given the opportunity.
What is a unique perspective you bring to your cohort?
I have a background in medicine, and this is my first time really teaching students in any official capacity, so I have a fresh take on science education and am able to bring my real-world experiences into my classroom both as a cohort peer and as a teacher.
What career will you be pursuing after graduation? Did you intend for this to be your career path when you enrolled?
I will be pursuing teaching science in a high school setting, and it is what I intended to be my career path when I enrolled.
What do you think of Portland?
Portland is beautiful, and rapidly growing and developing all the time. Diversity is making its way back into the city, which enriches neighborhoods and communities all over the area.
Anything else you would like to add about your family, background, plans, etc.?
I hope to obtain my CTE endorsement eventually after graduating from Lewis & Clark, so I may teach some health career electives in addition to life sciences.