Some people are self-motivated to do most anything, others need a carrot dangled in front of their face or a little push from behind. The walls of Richard Johnsen’s classroom at Calistoga Junior-Senior High School are more of the carrot-type of motivation.
He’s retiring at the end of this year and is leaving behind more than 160 college pennants he’s received from students over the years (see “Retiring teacher leaves behind a motivational symbol” on Page B3). When his students sit in his classroom they can look up at those pennants and think about all the students who sat in those same seats who have gone on to college.
I never had a carrot like that and was not encouraged to go to college when I was a teenager. It wasn’t that I was discouraged from going to college. It was more that I was being prepared to learn a trade so that I could find a decent-paying job and have security. That’s a great thing, too, and while I did go to college right out of high school, I didn’t take it seriously. It wasn’t until years later that I returned to school and finally got my degree in journalism. It’s an amazing feeling of accomplishment and I value learning and education more than ever. Learning and education is what I like best about my job; I’m constantly learning new things from different people and I’m never bored.
Part of what I like about Johnsen’s walls of pennants is that a daydreamer like me could possibly see herself in those school colors. It’s subtly putting the example out there without ever needing to say the words “college is good for you.”
College is not for everyone though, and Johnsen makes a point of saying that. Some people aren’t cut out for a classroom. I have successful friends who never attended a day of college, not because they weren’t smart enough, but there just wasn’t the desire or need in some cases.
We probably all have former teachers out there who have left their mark on us; I’m sure Johnsen over his 38 years of teaching has been meaningful to many Calistogan students and now he leaves behind a 20-year display of encouragement for the next generation of students to dream about. That is, if the next teacher who occupies Room 1 keeps the pennants and carries on the tradition (hint, hint, I sure hope you do).
May your own “Retirement University” pennant wave free, happy and healthy Mr. Johnsen.