English teacher Natalie Johnson-Berry wins SMSD Secondary Teacher of the Year

Grace Altenhofen, Editor-in-Chief

SM North English teacher Natalie Johnson-Berry has been named SMSD’s Secondary Teacher of the Year.

Each school across the district had the opportunity to name a building teacher of the year; from there, a committee chose one district-wide elementary teacher of the year and one secondary teacher of the year.

“There is an initial process where any students, faculty or parents can select teachers who they believe are worthy of being building teacher of the year,” Johnson-Berry said. “I was fortunate, I got probably 40-something recommendations, whereas you’re lucky if you get a couple. So I was overwhelmed in a good way.”

Superintendent Michael Fulton surprised Johnson-Berry with the award during her first block class April 12.

“It felt really great,” Johnson-Berry said. “I was astounded and just very amazed. I didn’t think I would get selected. I thought, ‘What are my chances?’”

Johnson-Berry is most proud of the connections she’s made with students during her time in SMSD.

“Having as many personal connections to the students,” she said. “Maybe inspiring them to go a step further because they see that there’s someone who’s had struggles just like them and maybe they can see themselves in me.”

One of Johnson-Berry’s current students is freshman Hailey Stuck.

“I’m proud of her for winning the award,” Stuck said. “She deserves it for all the hard work she does and she’s a great teacher.”

According to Johnson-Berry, winning Teacher of the Year will show her students that anyone can achieve if they work hard.

“They can know that a person who considers themselves ordinary can maybe do something that’s considered special,” she said. “That makes me feel good, that I’m kind of like an ordinary person and they can do what I’m doing.”

Associate Principal Kent Glaser was there as Johnson-Berry received the award.

“It’s an awesome feeling,” Glaser said. “We’re just very proud of everything that she’s done. We’re just glad we could be there to help recognize her in front of our class.”

From there, Johnson-Berry will go on to compete with teachers of the year from across the state of Kansas.

“She’s going to end up representing us statewide, and we know she’s going to do an awesome job,” Glaser said. “I think she’s got a good chance. She’s just very, very good at what she does and she’s dedicated to her students. That’s what will give her a great chance representing us across the state.”

However, Johnson-Berry recognizes how tough the competition will be.

“I feel like my chances are as good as anyone else,” she said. “It will be very competitive. I will do my best to represent our district and be the voice we all want. So I’m cautiously optimistic.”

However, no matter how she does at the state level, Johnson-Berry is proud to have won district Secondary Teacher of the Year.

“I’m just really overwhelmed. I’m grateful for it,” Johnson-Berry said. “As a person of color, sometimes you can feel a little alienated, even marginalized, so this shows that my district does support me and backs me up and they do recognize that everyone’s important, no matter what their background is. They listened and they heard my voice.”