What started out as an annual volunteer opportunity for Katie Johnston turned into an 11 year teaching position at Wando High School and now the East Cooper Center for Advanced Studies (CAS). It also earned her the chance to compete for the Charleston County School District (CCSD) Teacher of the Year. Johnston was named the school’s first-ever teacher of the year and has been named one of CCSD’s Top-5 Teacher of the Year Finalist.
Johnston said it takes energy and effort to recruit females to the program but she is seeing growth in their interest. Her own experience is a success story and she often shares that with her students. There are eight total engineering and architectural courses available to East Cooper students and Johnston is certified to teach four of them.
Through the years, Johnston has grown the engineering program so that real, hands-on work is being done by the students – for real clients. Last year, students designed the Laing Alumni Association’s Memorial Court on the site of the old school building. They had to present to the client, finalize the design. This year students are working on Snee Farm Condo facades.
“These students are impacting their community, in a big way and they’re only in high school,” said Johnston. “I love design and design work and I am constantly looking for opportunities that will provide them some level of design. Being their teacher and helping student navigate projects is so gratifying. You get those moments when kids are enthusiastic and it is so interesting to watch.”
“Ms. Johnston has been an integral part of the development of our four Academies in our CAS. She has brought a wealth of experience working with business and community partners and her willingness to go the extra mile with her students before and after class is inspiring,” Blankenship stated when asked about Johnston’s impact on the school.
Johnston said her life has always been about serving her family, community and church. She always wanted to be a star architect and maybe become famous one day. She explained that with her career shift, she discovered, “that as long as I care about other people and show that, that’s what makes something a success.”