News Category: Colleges and Universities
High school is a unique experience unlike any other. The people that you meet in high school will have a significant impact on your experience there. Gary Johnson, one of the engineering and math teachers in Foothill High School, is someone that will certainly have an impact on you if you go to Foothill High School. From teaching deep and interesting concepts in class to accompanying students to competitions such as the Chevron Design Challenge, Mr. Johnson is always beside his students. There are always students seeking for his guidance in whatever project they are creating, for he is incredibly helpful and gives thoughtful and insightful advice. No matter what the question is, Mr. Johnson strives to help his students. Mr. Johnson’s Q & A is below
Q: How has your experience teaching at Foothill been seeing students mature and improve?
A: I am really fortunate to teach at Foothill because the students are so motivated. My students do amazing things while in high school and many check back in throughout and after college to let me know how things are going. Since starting the engineering program, most of my graduates pursue engineering and it is really rewarding to see them excel in the field.
Q: How does it feel to have such an impactful effect on the students you teach?
A: I have always been under the mindset that all students can achieve if given the right environment and I try to create a classroom environment that fosters creativity and exploration. When my students come to me with their crazy ideas and projects, I do my best to say yes, which is not always possible, but I think my students respect me for being open minded while at the same time setting boundaries of practicality and safety. I appreciate the way my students view me and I do my best to reciprocate that respect.
Q: Managing many Engineering and Math classes can be hard. How do you manage so many students, all with their own projects and ideas, asking for your help and attention?
A: I see myself as a facilitator. I give students a project to work on, and it is really just a starting point, it is up to them where the problem is taken from there. Every day, students come to me with problems I have never seen before, and I do my best to ask appropriate follow up questions so they are able to solve their own problems. Sometimes it is challenging to answer all the questions at the same time, in these situations, I know that I have not done enough instructing, and I need to pull the class together and regroup. There is a delicate balance between giving away too much vs too little; I want many assignments to stay open ended so students can apply their own creative spin on them, but they also need to know enough information in order to go deep. There is something much more rewarding about figuring things out for yourself, and it also gives students more ownership of their projects and knowledge.
Q: What made you choose Engineering as your career?
A: I chose engineering for probably the same reason all my students do. They love building legos. Since I was young I was always tinkering with things, taking them apart, trying to fix them, putting them back together. My parents still have a list of things I need to fix when I go home. Engineering provided the perfect mix of math, science, tinkering, and creativity.
Q: What piece of advice would you like to give to students entering high school or to older middle school students?
A: High school and college are a time for exploration, to figure out who you want to be. Students at Foothill are lucky to have so many different class and club options so they can explore and figure out where they belong, such as the engineering courses. I know many students prioritize grades and AP classes so they can get into a good college, but because of this they miss the real reason for education: to learn.
Q: What would you like students who might be entering your classes to know about you?
A: I have high expectations of my students. I know they can produce great things, and I will support them and help them in creating those things, and we will all have fun learning together, but I do expect all students to come into class every day and work hard.
Q: What other hobbies and interests do you have?
A: I love music, listening to it, singing, playing music, it calms me down and lifts me up at the same time. I love reading, I usually alternate between sci-fi, detective serials, and other fiction, my current favorite book is Lonesome Dove. I also like to stay active, go on hikes, walk the dog, and play ultimate frisbee. Now that I am a dad, my daughter consumes most of my free time, and I love every second of it.
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