A dedicated course of learning

Stephanie Johnson, Stockton R-I School District educator, shares a smiling moment outside her classroom at Stockton High School as she explains her coordination and involvement with recent Special Olympics events hosted in the SHS gymnasium and commons.

How one local teacher has found professional passion on her path in special education

Parents, students, fellow faculty members and area residents are likely to recognize the friendly person many at Stockton High School know as Mrs. Stephanie Johnson.

Johnson, a lifelong educator, is a special education teacher with Stockton R-I, focusing mainly on teaching students with intellectual disabilities.

When entering the world of education, Johnson said she could not place the exact time she knew special education was her professional calling, but she pursued the specific field with unwavering drive.

Early in her collegiate path, Johnson said her choice in shifting her educational and career direction into education is something she never second guessed.

“It just fit,” Johnson said. “Somewhere early in college, I realized along the way that I just wanted to help kids.”

Johnson, who has children in the Stockton R-I School District, and along with husband Levi — a Master Sergeant who currently is deployed overseas with the Air National Guard — makes her home on a family farm in Cedar County.

Johnson is a Missouri State University graduate and did her student-teaching in the Stockton school system as well. She also holds a master’s degree in education administration from Southern Baptist University, Bolivar.

At the onset of her educational career, Johnson took a job teaching kindergarten-third grade in the Stockton school system, then swiftly moved into a special education role which she still holds today.

Staying creative and thinking outside the box, Johnson has created ways for her special students to develop life skills and socially interact with the community.

“We go to Woods [Supermarket] and stock shelves, we do community events, we go to the Little Tigers preschool and do activities with them and we help out at Encore thrift store, just off the [Stockton] square. These kids love the experiences and it gives them real-world experience.”

Just called the efforts “a unique way for her students to interact independently outside of the regular school setting, adding a social benefit to her dedicated efforts in special education.

“I don’t know what else I would do with my life,” Johnson said. “ I really don’t. There’s nothing else in this world I could do other than this.”

Completing her 14th year in the educational realm, Johnson said there are no plans to pursue any other profession.

“There’s something about seeing and experiencing growth and learning with these kids that never gets old,” Johnson said. “When you see one of these children light and say, ‘I did it,’ there’s nothing better than the feeling you get from that.”

This year, Johnson has added an indoor seedling setup to her classroom and has plans for a class garden — which will be utilized as a means to teach students about the growing and gardening processes, as well as plant lifecycles, nutrition and cooking in her upcoming spring lesson plans.

Johnson also said Stockton will continue to be her family’s home for the foreseeable future and looks to continue making a positive, beneficial impact on the lives of children with special needs for years to come.

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