MESA, AZ (Silver Apple) -- Teachers nowadays have to fight for their students' attention. They're up against video games and other electronic devices. It has forced teachers to get creative to keep their kids engaged. Although remote learning is challenging for everyone, Shepherd Junior High School teacher Nicholas Johnson has found a way to connect with his kids.

"It's been challenging. Getting kids to engage in an online platform is definitely tough," he said. "Most of the time, you're staring at a blank screen. You have no idea if they're there or playing video games."

Johnson came up with a way to engage his eighth-graders. It's one of the many reasons he's being honored with a Silver Apple Award sponsored by Arizona Bank and Trust.

"Oh, my God! Wow. Thank you," Johnson said when he learned of the award and accompanying $1,000 check. "That's amazing."

Katelynn Downin nominated Johnson.

"Mr. Johnson is a special teacher because despite the challenges COVID-19 has created, he makes remote learning exciting," she explained n a short essay. "Every day in class, we start with bell work that is fun and stimulating. Our assignments are always enjoyable. For example, when we worked on our Gothic literature unit, we read a variety of stories, each different but equally entertaining, and then also watched video adaptations of them. He truly knows how to make learning fun while watching us grow as students and young adults."

Johnson says getting his students to buy in is a work in progress.

"There were kids who were willing to turn their cameras on and engage," he said. "But as the semester went on, more and more kids were willing to turn their cameras on and be involved and engage."

Johnson said the award is not just his.

"I am so humbled right now. I see the award, and it's amazing," he said. "But I don't only see my name on it. I see the names of the people who have supported me and, more importantly, the students who have told me something wasn't working. This is definitely a community award that goes to so many people for their hard work."

 

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