Holly Johnson, a special education teacher at Parkside Elementary School in Tenino, has been chosen as the 2024 Regional Teacher of the Year by Capital Region Educational Service District (ESD) 113.
Capital Region ESD 113 encompasses and provides services for 44 school districts, including the Tenino School District, as well as one tribal compact school and approved private schools throughout Thurston, Mason, Lewis, Grays Harbor and Pacific counties.
According to ESD 113’s website, Johnson specializes in teaching children with disabilities. She created the Ready! For Kindergarten program within the district, which aids parents in preparing their children to attend kindergarten.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Johnson also dropped school supplies and learning materials on porches of families having trouble accessing online learning. She has applied for and received several grants from Donors Choose and the Squaxin Island Tribe to pay for sensory-friendly and hands-on learning materials her students needed.
The selection committee chose Johnson for the award because she is a dedicated teacher who meets students where they are and supports them in any way she can to move them forward, according to a news release from ESD, which also praised her ability to attend to the particular abilities and disabilities of each student while working with other adults to maintain a positive classroom experience for all.
"She enthusiastically had a plan, not only for what my son could accomplish with help but for who he was and what he loved,” Andrea Corcoran, a parent, stated in the release. “She saw my son fully as the individual he is and came to meet him happily where he was at. Mrs. Johnson threw herself into new research and techniques that she could use to help my son. He never sat disengaged, unloved, or unnoticed during his entire time in her classroom. This gift allowed me peace of mind, which is something a mother of a disabled child doesn't always have."
As an educator of children with disabilities, Johnson believes her primary purpose is to remove barriers for her students and their families, according to the release.
“She has had to wear many hats as her program is not disability specific. Because of this, she has become an expert in adapting her teaching methods and supports to a wide variety of students,” ESD stated. “She knows that parents of children with disabilities often face greater challenges in raising and finding support for their children. She aims to be that support. No matter how small an accomplishment for her students may be, Johnson is guaranteed to be celebrating it. To her, there’s an importance in informing parents about the good days their child has in class as often as possible.”
Parkside Elementary School Principal Brock Williams said Johnson builds positive relationships with students and families in and out of school.
“She goes above and beyond the job description in helping the child and family,” Williams said. “Holly does many things behind the scenes to help children be successful and feel good about themselves while working closely with the family, other service providers, health care providers and the larger support community. She provides hope to families facing many challenges."
As Capital Region ESD 113’s 2024 Teacher of the Year, Johnson will now be one of nine candidates chosen by their respective ESDs being considered for Washington State Teacher of the Year. The winner will be chosen and announced this fall by the Washington state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
For more information, visit https://www.esd113.org/2024-regional-teacher-of-the-year/.