A Former Student Remembers Life With “Mr. J”
It’s 9:00am on a Monday morning. I’m walking into the classroom of Mr. Chris Johnson when a little foam dart hits me in the chest. I look up and see “Mr. J” sitting at his desk, brandishing his Nerf dart gun with a smile.
“Didn’t hurt,” I say.
He smiles again. “I’ll have to get a paintball gun, then.”
I laugh and then find my desk.
“Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich?” I ask.
“Chris Christie!” He shoots back.
“That’s just because you like his name!” a student from the back of the room chimes in.
This little exchange leads to a 20-minute discussion on politics, sports, Charlie Sheen, and whether or not Osama bin Laden was busy watching the Royal Wedding on TV when the Navy Seals stormed his house. Mr. J can be very opinionated (“Joe Biden is demented”), but he always listens to both sides of an issue, usually concluding that “you’re all entitled to your own wrong opinion.” By the time that the lively discussion is over and class begins, all of the students are wide awake and ready to participate.
As Mr. J begins teaching, it’s obvious to all of us students that he was born to be a teacher. He teaches in a pleasant, interesting way, and he is a brilliant thinker. When he smiles, his face lights up and his eyes squeeze shut, and most of the girls in class think that he’s very cute.
During chapel, I can’t help but notice how dedicated he is to his Savior as he lifts his voice in praise to God. He puts his whole heart into his chapel sermons, and they are always timely and thought-provoking, without being heavy.
I go to my next class pondering what I just learned. I notice that the atmosphere of the school is very light and cheerful, as Mr. J always tries to insert humor and wit into his teaching. Whenever I try to trick him into giving me less homework, he jokes, “I’m not as dumb as you look.” When discussing New York State taxes, he plays the Beatles hit, “The Taxman” as background music. He also knows how to take a joke without getting angry (like the time when we filled his desk with toilet paper).
Now it’s time for gym class. I change clothes quickly and run to the gym. Mr. J is already there, dribbling a basketball and sinking three-point shots like a pro. I hope that I can be on his team, because I know what a formidable foe he can be. Everyone knows not to get in his way when he charges for the net, because he won’t hesitate to run right through you! Throughout the class, Mr. J emphasizes the importance of good sportsmanship and teamwork, and gives every student equal chances to prove himself.
The day has flown by. The buses are arriving as I gather my books and prepare to leave. I know that, after everyone leaves, Mr. J will still be here, cleaning the building and taking care of general maintenance. I marvel at what a great example and role model he is.
I get a smile and a firm handshake from Mr. J and then walk outside to my bus. I’ve learned more in one day than I would have in a whole week at a public school. Mr. J has done more than just numbers and figures, he’s taught me how to live. And the funny thing is, I’m looking forward to school tomorrow.
Jonathan Quatro, a former student at CCA
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