Hinsdale Middle School language arts teacher Barbara Johnson is leaving nearly 40 years of history behind when she retires at the end of the current school year.
Q. You started teaching in 1973. Have you been at Hinsdale Middle School since that time?
A. I took a year of maternity leave off for the 1980-81 school year. I came back in September 1981, but I was let go because of a reduction in force for one year and taught at Gower (Middle School) in 1985-86, before coming back.
Q. Did you ever consider staying at Gower, instead of returning to Hinsdale Middle School?
A. I wanted to come back after 12 years; this was my home. And even though I had to start from step one in seniority, I knew that I would be needed the rest of the way to teach there. I knew I would be working my whole life, and I was happy to be here. There really is no mobility for teachers like there is in the business world. When you move to another job as a teacher you generally go back to the beginning and make less money.
Q. When did you first think you might want to be a teacher?
A. I decided when I was about 6 years old. I liked the teachers I had contact with, and I always loved children. I went to camp when I was a kid, but I also ran little summer camps for kids when I was 9 to 13 years old. Maybe, I was just bossy.
Q. What was it about teaching that you enjoyed?
A. I’ve always liked interacting with children best. I like hearing what they have to say. Every kid has something to say that’s important. I think I’m a people person by nature.
Q. How did you end up teaching in District 181?
A. I graduated a semester early from Drake University. There were a lot of people looking for teaching jobs at that time, and I thought graduating early would give me a head start. I applied to all of the high school and elementary districts in Will, Kane, Cook, DuPage, and Lake counties, and I had three interviews, here in District 181, Salt Creek (Elementary District 48) and the Skokie Fairview elementary district. I ended up being hired for a job at Hinsdale Junior High, which became Hinsdale Middle School.
Q. Have you always taught language arts?
A. Yes, but I also have taught social studies and U.S. history.
Q. What have you enjoyed most about working with middle school children your entire teaching career?
A. I’ve grown to love this age group. I could have ended up as a high school teacher, but this is where I ended up, and I’ve really enjoyed it. To some extent, they’re still children, but they also are turning into adults in some ways.
Q. Were you ever interested in being a school administrator?
A. I have the necessary certification to be an administrator, but I prefer to be a teacher. I don’t have to be so politically correct as a teacher. If you find something you really love and are comfortable with it and are good at it, it’s a great place to be.
Q. What has changed most over the years for you about teaching?
A. What was good about being a teacher is still what’s good about being a teacher. The core of teaching hasn’t changed. Technology has changed many of the way we do things. And accountability has changed a lot. It’s much more about numbers and a test, which is sad. Children aren’t made up of replacement parts. You can’t just analyze everything based on numbers.
Q. Why did you decide to retire now?
A. It’s just time. I’ll find another job, just not in teaching. My dream of working at Borders (Books) was dashed, but I’ll give myself until September to start finding something.Tags: Clarendon Hills Middle School, Hinsdale Middle School