by Jenny Gregory
Cleveland, Ga., – For many youngsters, childhood role-play is a part of growing up. For Kelcie Johnson, the youthful imagination was a natural calling in her life that led her to choose the Bachelor of Education degree at Truett McConnell University (TMU), where she graduated in 2015.
“I come from a family of teachers,” shared the Gwinnett county native. “I remember countless summers setting up my aunt’s classroom and pretending as if I were the teacher.” Seeing her family positively impact children as educators was incredibly inspiring to Johnson.
After high school, she knew God called her to the northeast Georgia mountains to pursue a teaching degree at TMU – a campus she excelled in during her undergraduate career.
“At Truett McConnell, I learned that I was getting more than just a degree,” Johnson shared. “Within my four years at TMU, I drew closer to the Lord than I ever had. The Great Commission Minor challenged my faith and truly questioned what I believed and why I believed it. I left TMU knowing that the foundation of my faith was solidified.”
Johnson commended the professors who made a difference in her life; challenging her academically and spiritually.
“I will never forget how each professor would open each class with prayer. The relationships that were formed were meaningful. They taught me to do just the same, in the real world.”
Johnson, who earned her Bachelor of Arts in Education, credits Dr. Julie Lutz, Dean of The Peter and Gredel Walpot School of Education and Assistant Professor of Education, for directly mentoring her as she pursued the education field.
“I will never forget the day that I met Dr. Lutz,” she shared. “I brought some brownies to the teaching staff and tried to win her over.” Her tone quickly changed as she shared her attempt to befriend the Dean.
“She was not taking it!” Johnson exclaimed. “In fact, I am pretty sure she hinted that I was a brown-noser. I walked away thinking this was going to be one tough professor. However, I learned more from this woman of God than I could have ever imagined. She not only made an impact on me educationally, but relationally as well.”
“The time that she takes out of her personal life to pour into others speaks volumes,” she explained. “She does not simply work a 9 to 5 job each day, she invests her whole life into those who are going through the education department at TMU.”
The relationship between the two still ensues today as Lutz continues to provide encouragement to the elementary teacher.
“Kelcie was in the first class I taught at Truett,” Lutz said. “She was such a blessing to me being the new professor. Her compassion for learning about the teaching profession showed me that I made the right decision in coming to Truett McConnell.”
The Dean continued, “Having just finished her second year of teaching this year, I feel that Kelcie is still just as eager today to help her students as she was in that first class. Her compassion for teaching has not waivered and continues to grow.”
Upon graduation, Johnson accepted her first teaching job in Habersham County but found herself back in the beloved town of Cleveland, Ga. teaching first grade at Jack P. Nix Elementary School (JPNES).
“I am truly blessed to work at JPNES,” Johnson declared. “There is something about this small town of Cleveland that has stolen my heart and caused me to move and begin my life here.”
Making each day count
Following in the footsteps of her family, Johnson knew first-hand the rewards and challenges that would accompany the profession.
While many teachers play a role in their students’ lives, sharing their faith is prohibitive. For her, it’s through revealing her faith in Jesus by her smile, positivity and daily approach in the classroom.
“I saw the classroom as a mission field,” she declared. “Each student comes from various walks of life and I have the opportunity to pour the love of Christ into them each day.”
It’s evident by the excitement her first-graders portray in the classroom, the one whom they refer to as “Ms. Kelcie,” clearly provides a nurturing environment to learn, grow, and expound their minds.
The warmth of her classroom was inviting to all but for each child, it was a place of encouragement and a safe-haven.
Mrs. Cheryl Allen, a first-grade teacher at JPNES and White County School System veteran of 23 years, commended Johnson, saying: “Kelcie only has kindness in her heart, and I see her sharing that kindness with every child and person she passes by in her life.”
An open letter to the parents, Johnson clearly has a passion to make a difference in the lives of each student who walks through her classroom door: “We will grow together and achieve great things through hard work ethics,” she states in her letter.
“It is my desire that each student would leave my classroom feeling loved, prepared and ready to take on the challenges that are set before them.”
Beyond the classroom
Johnson plans to continue her schooling by pursing a Master of Education at TMU when the program begins in January of 2018. She also plans to marry her college sweetheart, Jon Luna, the following fall. The two are excited about the upcoming nuptials and look forward to settling down in the Cleveland area where they are activity involved at Cleveland Worship Center as children’s directors.
“Truett prepared me to become the best teacher that I can be,” Johnson added, “but they have also taught me so much more through the Christian realm, that I will forever be thankful for.
Jenny Gregory is the Content Manager for Truett McConnell University.
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