Mary Johnson - Dean Morgan Junior High

by Taylor Viydo, 
Since 1979, Mary Johnson has been making a difference in the lives of hundreds of students at Dean Morgan Junior High in Casper. 
Johnson is a language arts teacher at heart, and a unique one at that: her love of language and writing lead her to begin teaching journalism at Dean Morgan. "We had a contest: we're going to create a newspaper, name that newspaper, and 'Eye of the Comet' is what won," says Johnson. 
"Eye of the Comet" began 27 years ago, and has since been providing students at the Junior High the opportunity to flex their journalistic muscles. Johnson says many of her students that write for "The Comet" go on to write for student newspapers in high school. "Nine years ago, I was asked to develop a junior-high journalism class. I couldn't find any materials for that, so I bought everything I could find," says Johnson on her challenges when starting the class. 
The language arts teacher's efforts have not gone unnoticed, however. Some of Johnson's former students are now working as professional writers. "I had [a student] come back and he said 'I just want you to know Mrs. J that even though I was a little bit of a tiger in class, I've made journalism my career,'" Johnson says adding that the student is now a writer for Rolling Stone. 
As for current students, it's Johnson's practical teaching style that has so many coming back to class each day. "She's a lot more down to earth than other teachers," says Dean Morgan 8th grader Micah Miller. "You can have a conversation with her and not feel awkward." 
"She really incorporates life into her lessons," adds 8th grader Alyssa Burton. 
While this school year will be her last, Johnson will tell you it wasn't the paycheck that drove her to teach for 34 years. "When you see a child's light blub turn on and they get something, you've got em," she says. "That's been the thing that keeps me coming back every day."

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