Hello Mrs. Johnson! We love having you as a teacher at TASA! Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview so that we can get to know you a little bit better.
Q: What is the best part about teaching Kindergarten at TASA?
A: Everything! What's not to love about Kindergarten? I thrive off their innocence and enthusiasm for learning! You can't be in a bad mood when you have kindergartners around. They are like Sour Patch Kids. Sometimes they are sour and sometimes they are sweet. Everyone single one of them has brightened my day or made me laugh at some point in the day, making any grumpy or frustrating moment obsolete as soon as they open their mouths. What's not to love about teaching at TASA? I have the world's best co-workers, especially Mrs. E when it comes to teaching Kindergarten. She helps keep me balanced and works alongside me everyday to help me help my students in all the best ways we know how. I cherish that I have such a small group of kids to work with, which means I get so much 1-on-1 time with each that I am able to make them more successful than if I had a large class size. I especially love that I have parents that have a vested interest in their child's education, so they work with me as a team to help keep their kiddos on track and doing their best. Ok, I know I sound like a Hallmark card, but this is truly how I feel. *Insert all feel good emojis here.*
Q: We heard that you used to live and teach in Hawaii. How different is living in San Antonio from living in Hawaii?
A: Wow, where do I begin? Hmmm...There is NO beach here! (*cue "How Do I Live Without You?" by Leann Rimes). I certainly miss Hawaii for it's beautiful beaches and mountainous views, no matter where I went on the island, even from my bedroom window. Also, I kid you not, I saw a rainbow literally almost every day because of the daily showers. It wasn't unusual to see double rainbows either! The culture is very different as Hawaiians live, breathe, and drive with Aloha. I'm not sure what word you could use to describe to the driving I've encountered in San Antonio, although it's not a nice one. One thing I do love about San Antonio is the Hispanic influence. I had a friend at my last base who was half Mexican and got us all to dress like sugar skulls once. Ever since then, I LOVE sugar skulls! My kitchen is decorated with sugar skulls. I don't view myself as a person particularly intrigued with death, but I see the beauty of spending a day honoring our passed loved ones and celebrating the lives they lived as you see on Dio De Los Muertos. Also, there is something to be said about being able to order savory, authentic tacos anywhere you go in the city, especially from the local taco truck that makes its rounds at the neighborhood park and school functions. I do believe Hawaiians could take note here because their fish tacos don't even compare.
Q: How is teaching at TASA different from teaching in Hawaii?
A: The biggest difference is that TASA is a small private school, and I taught at a large public school. We had 8 kindergarten classes one year just to get our class size down to 24 students each, to put it into perspective. My students were also from very different backgrounds. The majority of my class was either Native Hawaiian or another Pacific Islander like American Somoan, Filipino, Marshallese, or Chuukese . Most of the rest of my students were from other Asian countries, specifically China and Japan. (The minorities were the Caucasian and African American children of military members.) Because of this, the 2nd language introduced at our school, Keone'ula Elementary, was Japanese. Hawaiian studies was also a mandatory subject where students learned traditional Hawaiian language and customs. We celebrated all national holidays, but we also celebrated Hawaii's holidays, like King Kamehameha Day and Statehood Day. Because of the heavy Asian influence, schools also had Chinese New Year celebrations and made crafts of dolls on the Japanese holiday of Girl's Day and kites shaped like fish on the Japanese holiday of Boy's Day. One year, I was speaking to my mother in Arkansas, and she said her kids at the daycare she was working at were celebrating Cinco de Mayo. Meanwhile, I was celebrating Boy's Day with Asher and Liam on that same day! That conversation had me thinking about how diverse our country really is. Conversations with students and staff were always peppered with Pidgin. During my orientation, I listened as the principal went over professionalism with teachers, explaining how to do recess duty as, "We walk around. We don't stand 'round talk story, yeah?". She also explained professional dress, stopping to note, "...oh! And no pukas in ya pants." Imagine my thought process, looking around, one eyebrow raised, slowly mouthing, "Poooookas?", when my new co-teacher leaned over and clarified "Pukas are holes." It took everything in my power to hold in my laughter. Even more so when they invited me out for "pupus and ono" afterward!
Q: We’ve seen your boys visit TASA many times. What do they think of TASA?
A: They love it! Liam has begged to come to work with me several times . I can tell he views TASA as a part of our family and he sees all the students here as his friends. Asher loves being invited to the different holiday parties and learning about Judaism first hand through such authentic experiences. I think he also enjoys seeing how there are students his age, growing up in a different religion and a different type of school then he goes to, but recognizing the similar interests in sports, books, and, of course, current YouTube sensations.
Q: Where did you grow up and what is your favorite childhood memory?
A: My dad was in the Army for the first 6 years of my life, so I spent the earliest part of my life in Bad Cannstatt, Germany, and then Huntsville, Alabama. He left the military and we moved to the small, rural town of Bryant, Arkansas the summer before 2nd grade. My parents bought a home with my grandma, who had become widowed a few years back. My parents struggled with the move and transition to civilian life. My dad worked as a pharmacy technician for the VA hospital, and self-taught himself how to code in his downtime without any formal college training. He had a room we called "the computer room" where he had a wall of bookcases, all the shelves lined with coding and computer books. My mom was a hairdresser who made less than minimum wage, and ended up leaving to take on a series of customer service jobs. Looking back, we did not have much money, but as kids, we were none the wiser. We attended the local Catholic church where my mother made sure my sister and I were always dressed in our "Sunday Best".
It's hard to choose just one childhood memory, because I had a lot of good times growing up. We lived at the entrance of the neighborhood, where 5 other girls all around our age become our best friends, and all of our parents were friends. Summers were the best because we would spend hours going back and forth from house to house playing in each others' above ground pools, jumping rope in each others' driveways, or lugging our favorite barbie dolls to the house with best accessories and Barbie dream house. We used our imagination A LOT! We put on magic shows, dance shows, and a pretend circus once for our parents. We pitched tents and would run an extension cord through backyard with our tiny 13", CRT TV propped on a plastic lawn table so we could watch Aladdin from the mesh screen. We tried to melt all of our old crayons in my moms good pot once, because one trip to Hobby Lobby made us sudden experts, before my grandma intervened. As I got older, I practiced cooking with my endless summer hours, burning pancake after pancake, and forcing my sister and the boy down the road to eat them, because, well frankly, they would eat anything. And although my parents did not have a lot of money, my dad was really great at make my sister and I a priority in his life. He would take us on road trips across the state to work on someone's computer, all the while talking about crazy science fiction ideas like, "What if people could move to another planet?", unbeknownst to us that such things were not too far off in the future.. He would take us to movies, the batting cages, go-karting, hockey games, and often tote along a friend or two, with the running joke in the neighborhood that if the kids left with Tom, you probably would not see us until the end of the day when we were worn out from our adventure.
Q: If you could redesign the food pyramid without any consequences, what would it look like?
A: There would be no pyramid. Just a box with pizza and tacos. To this day I still can't choose a favorite, but love them both equally. I guess if I have to throw in other foods, we can add some pie or ice cream for when I have a sweet tooth. No veggies or fruits though. I eat them only because I should, not because I really love them. And this kids, is why Mrs. Johnson is such a short adult. Don't be like Mrs. Johnson. Eat your veggies.
Q: What is the weirdest place you have ever eaten a meal, and what was the meal?
A: A ramen stand at the Food Court in the Ala Moana Mall in Honolulu. That was the day I discovered I really only like what I like to call "Americanized Asian Food". I thought ramen was something you bought in a plastic pouch with a super salty season packet and noodles. To this day, I cannot tell you what was actually in that bowl of ramen I bought at the food court. I ended throwing it away.
Q: Do you squeeze your toothpaste from the middle or the bottom of the tube?
A: Believe it or not, from the middle. *GASP* When it runs low, I will start rolling it up from the bottom. I also don't care which way you put the toilet paper on the roll. Seriously people, who cares? I live in a house of all boys. It's a miracle if the toilet paper actually makes it on the plastic roller.
Q: Star Wars or Star Trek, and why?
A: Is Harry Potter a suitable alternative? No? Hmm...Star Wars I guess. I have no interest in Star Trek and have only watched Star Wars when others have insisted I would love it. I don't. I normally fall asleep before any of the Star Wars movies are finished.
Q: What song or movie title best describes your life?
A: Anything by Green Day. "Time of Your Life" reminds me of my childhood. "Closing Time" reminds me of working at Domino's through college closing the store many nights with the man that is now my husband. "Wake Me Up When September Ends" reminds me of the sacrifices we have made as a military family.
Q: What do you look forward to the most about summer vacation?
A: I don't have any big plans yet. But I'm ok with that. Just getting time off with my boys is the best. Playing video games, going to the water parks, curling up on the porch furniture with a coffee and an autobiography on some strong female I admire are all things I try to make time for. We do try to make it to Lake Ouachita in Hot Springs with my in-laws every 4th of July to spend time on the houseboat and just catch up with family. Other than that, my boys and I make our own adventures each week during the summer. I use this time to recreate the fun and closeness I had as a child with my boys and that is priceless.