Dr. Edwardo Johnson is a 26-year veteran Spanish teacher at NSU University School. His days are spent building Upper School students’ Spanish fluency and language skills and educating them about the culture and customs of Spanish-speaking countries, whether that be through engaging project-based activities or immersive experiences. Over the years, Dr. Johnson has become well known for surprising his students with a pop-up restaurant. Donning a chef’s uniform, he prepares traditional Hispanic dishes such as quesadillas, tostones, guacamole, and tropical fruit punches for students to experience the diversity of Hispanic cuisine.
Dr. Johnson’s interest in teaching first began in the seventh grade when his instructor assigned him the responsibility of helping his classmates improve their reading skills, which in turn, helped him build his confidence and uncover his potential and passion for helping others. This then led to him volunteering at various organizations throughout high school, including the Jamaica Movement for the Advancement of Literacy program in his native country, Jamaica, where he taught lessons to adults. After graduating, he continued to pursue his dream and became a full-time Spanish teacher to gain experience and money for college. Today, he holds many degrees including a bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree in education.
Teachers can make a lasting impact in the lives of their students, and it is evident that Dr. Johnson is one of many extraordinary educators at USchool who has shaped and inspired countless students in the classroom and far beyond. Throughout his years here, he has served as faculty sponsor of the Drug Free Youth in Town Club and International Night, a celebration of USchool’s diversity, and co-sponsor of the Student Diversity Leadership Club. With the help of our USchool community, Dr. Johnson has collected and shipped more than 100,000 books to schools and public libraries in Jamaica through his Books for Jamaica initiative. Nominated by two USchool graduates, Dr. Johnson was selected as one of four winners of Northwestern University’s inaugural Distinguished Secondary Teacher Award.
Q&A with Dr. Johnson:
Describe your teaching style.
My teaching style is best described as eclectic, and it is ever evolving. My methodology matches the theme under exploration and the characteristics and needs of my students. NSU University School emphasizes personalization in its mission statement, and I believe in doing what is necessary to ensure that my students achieve excellence.
What are some ways you instill a love of learning in your students?
I continuously provide learning opportunities that allow my students to appreciate the content they are learning by applying it in real life through projects, immersive cultural experiences, and competitions. Every year, our students put their Spanish-speaking skills to the test at the Florida Foreign Language Association conference where they have excelled against the best of Florida high school students in a range of categories. I also take students to visit local restaurants to sample and experience traditional Hispanic dishes.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Being a teacher has allowed me to conquer worlds that I could only dream of as a child. My first Spanish teacher was an American who moved with his family to live in the rural town where my high school is located. I often ponder how my life has come full circle after my family and I moved to the United States where I have dedicated my career as a teacher at USchool, returning the favor. I think about the thousands of students I have taught and the expressions of appreciation that I continue to receive from all corners of the world, including from a USchool graduate who thanked me for my efforts in pushing him to learn Spanish. In fact, he wrote to me from a Spanish-speaking country where he now lives and thanks to his fluency in Spanish, he runs a successful business in the country’s tourism industry.
Do you have a particular hobby you enjoy doing outside of work?
I am an avid gardener. I spend a lot of time in my backyard garden tending to more than 20 varieties of tropical fruit trees, vegetables and herbs, peas, beans, bananas, plantains, sugar cane, and horticultural plants. I enjoy growing what I eat and eating what I grow.
What are some words of wisdom you would share with future educators?
To be a successful teacher, your love for children and education must shine through in your daily interactions with them. They need to know that you genuinely care about them. Provide them with the structure, then establish and maintain boundaries of respect and decorum in which you both operate. Equipped with your knowledge, skills, and flexibility, be firm, yet kind. With that in place, you are set to enjoy teaching.