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Ms. Sarah "Jo Jo" Johansen
I assumed my junior year of high school would be nothing but the carbon copy of the years past at Arrowhead. I’d spend my first day wandering the halls of a new campus, zoning out as my teachers droned on about their expectations, and praying to anything that would listen that I’d have at least one friend in every class.
I was accurate in my predictions about zoning out and my sudden spirituality. In fact, the first day of that year was like every school year I’ve dealt with. It was simply…uneventful.
Right after lunch, I headed to a class I only chose for its open-ended title: Modern Literature. When looking back at past literature classes, I saw stuffy, old teachers assigning us boring books that they assumed would mean something to us. I started to dread my class choices.
I got into the class early and sat next to a friend. As the class bell rang, a young woman walked to the front of the class.
“My name is Sarah Johansen. <i>Do not</i> call me Sarah. And don’t call me <i>Johansen</i>” she pronounced her last name in a thick German accent.
An unruly boy from the back of the class called out, “Can we call you Jo Jo?”
The class chuckled, and likewise, she chuckled with and rolled her eyes. “Sure, you can call me Jo Jo.”
She wrote book titles on the white board. After that, she gave us a short background for each book. She spoke about her favorites with such great emphasis, it was awe-inspiring. When she was finished, she let <b>us</b> decide which books we would read. We read all of her favorites that semester.
Whenever the class came across a book we didn’t like, Jo Jo would insist—<i>promise</i>—that it would get better. And it always did.
Throughout the semester, she regaled the class with stories of her past, her dreams, and her failures. She let us in on her not-so-secret obsession (<i>Star Wars</i>), and, in turn, we told her ours. If you had a bad day, she would always be sure to cheer you up. Along with handling her teacher duties, she had night school, worked at becoming an administrative officer, and still had time left over if a student needed to come in for help or to just…talk.
Since I’ve known Jo Jo, she has been like an older sister to me; she is more of a sister than my actual sisters ever have been. She is a caring, endearing spaz, and all of her students love her for it. She is the only teacher I have willingly bought a present for (a blue light-saber originally made for children five years and older. She loved it). She is Sarah “Jo Jo” Johansen, and if she isn’t your Educator of the Year, she will still be my Educator of a Lifetime.