For Earnestine Johnson, teaching means making a difference in the lives of her students.
Johnson has taught science at Waskom Middle School for 45 years, the entirety of her career (beginning her 46th year today). She calls her students her kids, and she said she has high expectations and aspirations for them.
“Many are very successful,”Johnson said. “Many teachers, administrators, one is an aerospace engineer for Boeing. I have a lot of engineers and nurses, and the new nurse on our campus is one of mine.
“Many of them are very successful; many of them are very good parents, ‘cause I have their children now,” she continued. “And so they know what I expect, and so they’re very supportive.”
Right now, Johnson teaches all the seventh graders on campus and half of the sixth graders. Seventh grade is her favorite.
“Over all three, seventh grade is the grade to teach,” she said. “The sixth graders are coming over from elementary, and many of them are very immature.
“It takes me usually half the year before I’m able to do labs with them because they have trouble even sitting, much less trying to handle science equipment, and so the seventh graders are right in the middle, and many of them I’ve already had, and so they know what the expectations are in my classroom.”
Something Johnson enjoys about teaching is how it’s new every day.
“Some people say ‘I go to the same old job every day, and it’s boring.’ My day is never boring,” Johnson said. “There’s something new about it every day. I learn as the children learn. It’s something I love to do.”
Johnson’s experienced plenty of changes with the school.
“When I first started, we didn’t have any air conditioning,” she said. “We had very few supplies. It was very crowded. It was the very old school; they’ve redone it and made it the high school. Part of it is where I taught years ago. So probably 10 years ago maybe we moved over here to this building.
“I’ve had many principals in years past. Some very good, and some I don’t know how they got to be principal.”
The current principal is actually one of her former students, she said, as are the assistant principal at the high school and the sixth grade math teacher. Johnson said she thinks she has at least three or four former students on every Waskom campus and that she’s very proud of them.
Johnson is looking forward to the coming school year, which begins today.
“When I’m not looking forward to it, I’ll just stop,” she said. “I enjoy it; I look forward to it. To me, science is fun, and I want it to be fun for my students.”