HURRICANE — In October, Hurricane Middle School teacher Laycee Johnson received an unexpected email notifying her that she had been selected as the Utah Association Teachers of Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher of the Year.
The award recognizes Johnson for her contribution to the family and consumer sciences field and enables her to apply for the next level of recognition – the Utah Association for Career and Technical Education award.
When she started college, Johnson said she knew she wanted to be a teacher, but she wasn’t sure what subject she wanted to teach.
After exploring math and history classes, Johnson took a couple family and consumer science classes and that is where she found her passion, she said.
“I was hooked,” Johnson said of the classes, “because they are skills these kids will use for the rest of their lives.”
She has been teaching the subject for 19 years now; 14 years at the middle school level and five years at the high school level.
Family and consumer sciences are the classes that are formerly known as home economics classes and include things such as teen living, fashion and interior design, food and nutrition courses and child development.
All of the family and consumer science courses are electives, meaning students can choose whether or not they want to take them. For Johnson this creates added pressure to make sure her class is memorable so that students want to sign up, she said.
“The best way to promote programs is word of mouth,” Johnson said, “so if the kids come out of my class and say ‘that was so much fun’ or ‘it’s awesome in there, you do so many cool things,’ that’s where the kids will sign up for it.”
Johnson said in order to keep her program going and growing, she has to stay invested and show her passion so the students will share their positive experiences with other students.
One of the myriad ways Johnson keeps her students engaged in class is by making the classes very hands on. For classes requiring lab work, Johnson’s goal is to have her students in the lab 35 out of 40 days of class. Johnson said this type of hands-on education creates a student-driven classroom that in turn leads to student successes in learning and retaining the associated core standards.
Johnson engages her students in learning in several ways. Interior design students build dioramas of their dream bedrooms, students learning about becoming entrepreneurs create their own food truck businesses, and all of her students, instead of taking notes from power point presentations, create “smash books” to help them remember key concepts.
Beyond the core standards, Johnson is teaching skills that students retain for life that will guide them in their future career choices.
“They’ll always remember the things they do in my class … they’ll remember the things they cooked, they’ll remember the things they made and they’re proud of them,” Johnson said. “I think because it’s so skills oriented is why I love what I teach. But the skills that we are giving them are going to help them in the future for getting their career.”
Hurricane Middle School secretaries Jody Ballard and Paula Beatty said Johnson makes learning fun for her students and that helps them retain what they have learned. Both Beatty and Ballard praised Johnson for her enthusiasm, energy and her genuine concern for the students she teaches.
It is an approach to education that has proven successful for Johnson and for family and consumer science programs within Washington County School District.
At nearly every school where Johnson has led the family and consumer science programs she has doubled the size of the program.
Additionally, Johnson has a strong track record of students with high test scores, both at the state and district level. Information from Johnson’s application for the Utah Association of Career and Technical Education award states that over the past 10 years test scores from Johnson’s students have always been above state levels. And at the district level students from her classes score among the top three schools.
Johnson is a member of the Utah Association of Career and Technical Education, the association that awarded her the Teacher of the Year for family and consumer sciences. She said the award came as a surprise.
Johnson was anonymously nominated for the award and was notified via email that she had been selected.
“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” Johnson said. “I was speechless.”
Johnson will receive her award at the Utah Association for Career and Technical Education conference which will be held Feb. 4, 2017, in Orem.
“I’ve always been taught to work hard and so it’s nice to be rewarded, but my passion is to build the program and have every kid want to take my class,” Johnson said.
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