Johnston is HIS Teacher of the Year

Published 5:19 pm Monday, February 4, 2013

Julie Johnston has made her mantra as a teacher: Every child can learn. Help them learn it.

By LAURA BROOKHART/Community Columnist

“Fifth grade is a big year,” Julie Johnston said. “It builds a transition between elementary and middle school. I like that the kids are still sweet, but more independent and so curious at this age. We can get into issues, say, finding out why congress decided to rebel.”

Johnston is Helena Middle School Teacher of the Year.

Johnston appreciates the new math program, Investigations. “It is much more hands on and involves more games. Its implementation has taught teachers new, easier ways to teach multiplication and division.”

“It teaches the kids there is more than one way to learn a skill and makes so much more sense than older traditional methods.”

In fifth grade, students learn what Johnston refers to as “real life math” applications of multiplication and division. “They learn conversions — how many teaspoons equal a tablespoon; how to use a ruler.”

“I believe every child can learn. That belief is present in the way I teach my students to work in a group — which we practice from day one. They understand that every one of their classmates has a valuable opinion or thought just waiting to be shared. It is present in the way my students understand that wrong answers are not dumb answers; they’re just ‘wrinkles’ of confusion waiting to be ironed out. It is present in the way I refuse to let students give up.”

Johnston applies what she learned from her most influential teacher, Mrs. Burke, to her own classroom.

“She was a master storyteller, and I will never forget the Colonial Day she planned for us. We went to a farm where we got to help shear sheep, churn butter, spin wool, weave and pick cotton.”

At Thanksgiving, all HIS fifth graders celebrated the completion of a unit about the Jamestown Colony participating in a Colonial Celebration with crafts, games, stories and foods.

Johnston grew up in Tuscaloosa, but spent her college years at Auburn University earning her B.S. in elementary education. Inside school she is on the Math Instruction Team, Yearbook Committee, and New Teacher Mentoring Program. Outside of school, she enjoys cooking, sewing, photography, the outdoors and spending time with family and friends.


Laura Brookhart can be reached by email at