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TNTP Re-imagine Teaching

Jonathan Johnson

8th Grade Social Studies, KIPP Central City Academy New Orleans, LA

After finishing his undergraduate studies in Orange, CA, Jonathan Johnson joined Teach For America in 2010, which placed him as an eighth grade social studies teacher at KIPP Central City Academy in New Orleans. He has remained in the role ever since, working closely with past Fishman Prize winners Jamie Irish and Whitney Henderson.

In the Recovery School District, only 57% of students pass the state exam in social studies, and in the Central City neighborhood, only 46%. But 83% of Jonathan’s students achieve a passing score. His classroom is all about fighting “The War” on low expectations, especially for African American youth. “Our goal in the war zone is to prove the dominant narrative wrong,” he says. “My students learn that the odds of their future success are stacked against them and how critical it is for them to overcome.”

By telling this story and constantly making his students’ schoolwork personally and culturally relevant – students daily recite Tupac’s "A Rose That Grew From Concrete," a poem about tapping into one’s unsuspected strength – Jonathan creates an inspiring and purposeful classroom environment. His coach says, “Jonathan is a visionary educator. He strives to educate his students in a way that unlocks their potential, challenges their beliefs and demands changes to the status quo in our community and world.”

In addition to teaching, Jonathan serves as the school’s social studies department chair, where he has led his team to incorporate daily non-fiction text into lessons to prepare students for rigorous academic writing and critical thinking. Jonathan also started his school’s debate team, and trains novice teachers through Teach For America and TNTP’s teachNOLA Teaching Fellows program.