During the Oct. 10 Fund Run assembly, Medical Lake sixth-12th grade band director Craig Johnson got a surprise when he received the KHQ/Eastern Washington University Teacher of the Month award.
Johnson has been teaching for 18 years. He started in the Medical Lake School District 14 years ago as the fifth-eighth grade band director. He has held his current position for four years.
Johnson’s love of music and teaching began when he was younger. His junior high instructor inspired him to play the saxophone and clarinet.
“I practiced for 2-3 hours every night,” Johnson said. “I knew I wanted to be a band director by the time I left junior high.”
After high school, Johnson attended Central Washington University where he received his bachelors degree, then went to EWU to get his masters. For Johnson, who is from Kent, Wash., being in band helped him with his social skills.
“Being able to interact in a music ensemble and being a part of a team like that helped me with my social skills a ton,” Johnson said. “I find that with some of my students. Some of them are shy like I was. They don’t say much but they can speak through their instruments.”
Johnson said he enjoys working with students. He explained that music teachers bond with their students through their instruments.
“You get to really see them grow up with them and their instruments,” Johnson said. “You get to watch their whole progression, from beginning to advanced stages of musicianship. It’s very rewarding.”
Students can nominate their instructors for Teacher of the Month by writing a letter to KHQ. Eighth-grader Megan Goertz nominated Johnson for the award. Goertz has been in the band for three years and plays the flute and baritone saxophone. She said Johnson is an amazing teacher and is dedicated to his work.
“He’s always doing something for us and I wanted to do something for him,” Goertz said.
Goertz said Johnson challenges her and the other students when it comes to learning music.
“He pushes us to help us get better,” Goertz said. “He’s also always upbeat and that helps make the learning experience better.”
Johnson said winning Teacher of the Month during the assembly was both exciting and humbling.
“It’s such a huge honor to receive something like this, especially when I’m surrounded by so many awesome teachers, who are equally deserving of receiving this award,” Johnson said.
Johnson said being a band director is a year-long commitment. He explained that band directors have to prepare all summer if they want their programs to be successful. This includes writing shows, finding music for students and meeting with kids during the summer.
Although the job can be overwhelming, Johnson said his band officers are willing to help whenever they can.
Johnson said he loves his job and hopes to continue teaching for many years.
“I’ll teach as long as I can physically handle it,” Johnson said.