Sophie LeBlanc also contributed to this article.
Recently, former AP English Language and Composition and English teacher Maggie Giberson applied and was selected to assume a new position as the Literacy Coach at Malden High School. This opened more room in the English department, and it would not be long before her successor arrived.
Hence, as students entered Malden High after February vacation, so did a new face: AP Language and Composition and 11th grade English teacher Tia Johnson, as she excitedly made her way up to room J378.
Johnson’s middle school self would not have shared such excitement when entering an English classroom. “I have always enjoyed reading and writing, but in middle school I had a tough time in school and did not think of it as my main priority. I was more into playing sports and my social life,” Johnson reminisces.
However, it was during Johnson’s freshman year of high school that she rekindled her passion for the subject. “I had a teacher that made the class enjoyable by presenting different activities and reading options, stressing the importance of education and developing strong relationships with the students in a way that made each of us feel like we could and would excel moving forward in high school,” she recalled.
“I began to picture myself as being an English teacher and decided that that is what I could become… and I worked diligently to meet my goal. I knew that if I was to become a teacher, I needed to be as knowledgeable as possible.”
Her future envisioned, Johnson received a bachelor’s degree in English at UMass Amherst and then a master’s degree in Secondary Education at Merrimack College. Once out of college, she entered the education field heavily equipped with knowledge.
Among her first teaching experiences, Johnson worked at North Andover High School, where she balanced librarian duties and taught Media Literacy & Health Promotion, which she noted was “a bit of a different experience.” She also gained English teaching experience at the Lynnfield and Watertown High Schools.
And here, everything fell into place: Principal Christopher Mastrangelo explained that he noticed Johnson teaching at the aforementioned Lynnfield High School and mentioned her to his friend and assistant principal there, who “raved about her… doing an amazing job at teaching.”
Consequently, Mastrangelo discovered her to be “confident” and “a good fit” for the English department. Then one thing led to another until Johnson was finally selected to become the new AP Language and Composition and 11th-grade teacher at Malden.
Upon transitioning into the school, Johnson noted that Giberson was “extremely helpful” in providing “insights, ideas and materials… I would have had a much more difficult time without it.”
Understandably, AP Language students were surprised by the transition in the middle of the school year. Senior Ariana Peguero believed that at first, the news was “very abrupt.” Like many others in the class, "I had not heard about the news of a change in position, and I was worried that this change would put a pause on preparations for the AP Lang exam.”
However, Peguero quickly noticed Johnson’s teaching and professionalism. Although it has only been some time since she joined their class, the senior noticed that Johnson was “very insightful” and “had many thoughtful comments and questions… that would expand on our proposals and ideas.”
Peguero also measured Johnson’s friendliness and compassion, which the teacher demonstrated by “going around and making small talk with the students… to get to know us and find ways we can all relate to one another.” Ultimately, “this left a very great impression on me, and I am sure on the other students as well.”
While she finds herself in no other profession, Johnson explained that there are quite a few challenging aspects of the job. “I have a hard time when a student is doing poorly,” she said. “I want all students to do their best and to succeed and feel confident in the work they put out, so I do get upset when a student is not doing well.”
Additionally, she elaborated on how “it can be easy to just teach the classic texts that have been taught for years and there are a lot of different ideas for how to teach those texts and what activities to do; but it is more difficult, however, to introduce a new text because it is almost like you have to start from scratch and you do not know how everyone will respond.”
Nevertheless, Johnson is fixated on the goal of “trying to bring in newer perspectives, voices, and texts to the classroom” as “it is important and I am willing to do the work for the sake of what is best for the students taking my classes.” She feels more at ease with this welcoming atmosphere at Malden High which makes her “eager to get to know everyone and start working on interesting course material.”
While adapting to the transition at Malden, Johnson also works outside the classroom as a part-time florist—a job she has had since 14 years old. There, she helps to create floral arrangements and set up weddings.
As for her hobbies, Johnson reads intensely, explaining that “reading is connected to my job in a way, but it is still a way I like to spend my time.” She also loves a good shoe moment, attributing to her love for fashion and shopping.
Additionally, Johnson is family-oriented, considering she chooses to spend as much of her time with her family as possible. “I have a few siblings that are much younger than me,” she said, “so I spend time with them helping with their school work, watching movies, doing puzzles, etc. at least one night a week.” When active, she is often with her Australian Shepard, Koda, who certainly has a fair chance at winning the Cutest Pet Contest currently circulating in the school.
With both a strong work ethic and magnetic personality, Johnson appears a great fit for the English department. Looking forward, students and the administration are pleased to see what she will bring to Malden High–and for her, experiencing all it has to offer besides the building’s “intimidating” size!