Western Middle School teacher Hattie Johnson and her fiancé, Mavric Collier.

Teacher Spotlight: Hattie Johnson – Western Middle School

When Western Middle School teacher Hattie Johnson learned she had been named Best Educator for the Kokomo Tribune’s 2023 Best of Kokomo Awards, she was delighted but also stunned. Those who know the sixth-grade social studies teacher and sports coach weren’t surprised. Her ability to build connections with her students is well-known.

Johnson is a Russiaville native. She now works alongside some of the teachers she had while attending Western School Corporation from kindergarten through grade 12. After graduating, she earned her degree in education from Indiana University Kokomo. Even though she had a full schedule and was a member of the women’s golf team, she found the time to be a substitute teacher.

“I don’t know who nominated me, but I appreciate being on the ‘Best of’ list,” she says. “For the last three years I taught fourth-grade math and science. This is my first year at the middle school. It has turned out to be great. I now work in the same building where I coach winter swimming and middle school golf. It has helped me hold the students I coach accountable both in athletics and school. There is a different middle school attitude. The kids have a different mindset in the way they show love and appreciation. I never thought I’d be a middle school teacher, but I love holding them accountable. I hold them to a high standard and try to make them the best possible.”

A self-proclaimed “sports girl,” Johnson says developing relationships with kids has always been easy for her, and she feels education was the direction she was led to. She cannot point out just one teacher who had the greatest influence on her. However, a couple of her coaches were especially important in her development as a person.

“All the teachers I had left a lasting impact on me,” she says. “Each one showed me how to be a good teacher. Two of my coaches, Brad Bennett for swimming and Steve Hoppes for golf, showed me that if you don’t put relationships with your students first, you can’t get anywhere with them. My teaching model is ‘Love first, teach second.’”

In her downtime, Johnson enjoys her dog, Puff, and cooking. Puff is a mini goldendoodle and just turned 3. Some of her current students were her fourth-grade students she when she got him as a puppy, and they have a special interest in him. Johnson loves to cook, and her signature dish is Buffalo chicken dip, which people tend to ask her to bring to events. Her made-from-scratch cooking comes to her from her mother, who grew up as a Mennonite.

Johnson and her fiancé, Mavric Collier, are going to Italy this October during fall break. A group of family and friends are joining them. The plan is to tie the knot some time while they are there. No specific date is set; they will play it by ear and pick a day when the weather is beautiful. The couple loves to travel, and Collier has always joked that he wants to eat cheese pizza in Italy after he gets married.

“It is so important for parents to be involved,” Johnson says, when asked what her biggest surprise about teaching is. “Everyone needs to be on the same page. A connection with all the pieces makes a difference.”

“I feel like the basic way to describe Kokomo is ‘home,’” she adds. “By subbing in the school system while going to IUK, I was able to get my foot in the door. Working with teachers who taught me has been great. Currently I coach with Bennett, who coached me in swimming. He is still showing me how important relationships are.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Kokomo Stories

Welcome Back!

Login to your account below

Retrieve your password

Please enter your username or email address to reset your password.

Send me your media kit!

hbspt.forms.create({ portalId: "6486003", formId: "5ee2abaf-81d9-48a9-a10d-de06becaa6db" });