The Illinois State Board of Education Justin Johnson, a band director at Niles West High School in Skokie, who leads the school’s marching band, wind ensemble, and several other musical groups, was named the 2020-21 Illinois Teacher of the Year Wednesday evening.
“Mr Johnson reminds us of how profoundly teachers impact our children and our communities,” Gov JB Pritzker said in presenting the award.
The 2016 Golden Apple Award finalist says he believes the biggest issue facing not only music education, but fine arts programs in general, can be summed up in one word: access.
He believes many districts either do not have the funding to adequately support fine arts programs or often schools prioritize core academics by requiring students to take supplementary courses during periods that they would normally have been allowed to study fine arts.
At Niles West in High School District 219, Mr Johnson developed a plan as part of the capstone project for his master’s degree to help students use alternative “split scheduling” that allows them to take both, essentially at the same time, until the supplementary course was no longer needed when the student raised their grade.
He was nominated for the award by a student, who wrote:
Every day he encourages us to grow. Even though he is enrolled in classes of his own and has two young kids at home, he never fails to be there for a student in need of help. Not only does he manage three ensembles and percussion during the school day, but he also teaches the jazz band every morning and the marching band for hours after school every autumn.
- Coverage in the Chicago Tribune