By Tonya Little
Midwest City Beacon
Dana Johnson, a teacher at The Good Shepard Lutheran School was chosen to be the March 2023 Honored Teacher by the national nonprofit organization called Honored, which is dedicated to keeping excellent teachers in the classroom and inspiring a new generation of talent to pursue teaching.
Johnson was nominated by the parent of 4-year-old Serenity who was in Johnson’s class last year. Serenity’s mom had recently gotten out of prison after a year, and was reunited with her daughter, when she discovered that she was way behind her peers in her academic level at that time. She quickly enrolled Serenity into the Good Shepherd Lutheran School last year, and Johnson was the teacher.
“Basically, my heart went out to this young lady. She had gone to prison and was sorry for what she had done and found God. I just told her that I was there for her. I wasn’t there to judge her. Her daughter was behind in school, I would say about six months behind and she knew this.
Mom knew that she needed some extra help and I knew that this little girl needed some extra help too. I just took Serenity under my wing and helped her,” said Johnson.
That help included dedicated one on one time working with Serenity during the regular school day, working throughout the summer at a 10-week summer program last year, and when Johnson discovered that Serenity’s mom was spending hundreds of dollars to Uber Serenity back and forth to school, Johnson offered to transport her instead. When the single mom had to go out of town for her job, Johnson even offered to let Serenity stay with her.
“I offered, you know, just what any Christian would do. Her mom wrote to Honored and said what I had done for her, which I was just doing my job and being a good Christian, and mom wrote to Honored and they decided to honor me,” said Johnson.
Johnson said when she first heard from Honored, she didn’t believe it was real, and wasn’t even sure she deserved it. She is the first Oklahoma teacher to win the national award, and she did indeed feel honored. The prize included $5,000, and the ability to choose another teacher recipient of $1,000 on the program called Donors Choose. Johnson said she is most excited about getting to give to another teacher. The Washington Post wrote a story about Johnson, and Honored took photos for their website as well.
“I was shocked at first. I mean, it came at a time where we are coming out of COVID and all the challenges of that, just sometimes you feel like people just kind of forget about teachers. At night time I go home and I’m asking myself did I do the best that I could today? Then you get an award like this and it’s like, I guess I am. That’s just our job, but there’s people out there that really do appreciate what we do. It’s made me feel really, really good that a parent showed me that they really appreciate me. That they took the time to nominate me for this award and it meant a lot to me,” said Johnson.
Serenity was able to catch up to her peers in her learning and abilities, even putting her at the top of her class, thanks to Johnson going above and beyond in working with her. Johnson’s advice is to take the time to stop and honor teachers in your lives and let them know they are doing a good job, because it means more to them than you probably know.
You can find out more about the Honored program and read the story about Johnson on Honored’s website at www.honored.org.