Coming full circle to lead the classroom


- Michelle Butterfield


Born to be a teacher 

Brittany Johnson is just a few weeks away from accepting her Bachelor of Education. This fact doesn’t surprise her kindergarten teacher, whose class Brittany recently led as a substitute.

Preparing to collect her degree alongside a Teaching Qualification Service upgrade in French Immersion and a professional certificate in Information Communication Technology, Johnson is already working close to full-time as a teacher-on-call (TOC) for K-8 classes across Greater Victoria.

Today, she taught grade twos. “Oh yeah, it was fun,” she says. “It was a good day.”

Johnson’s personality is bubbly and engaging. She exudes confidence and seems to enjoy being very busy, like she’s trying to squeeze out every drop from the day. A dancer, hobby actor and former gymnast, she points to her own teachers who inspired her to take this career path.

“I knew I wanted to be a teacher from when I was really young. Like, kindergarten. I was already helping the teachers in the classroom, and I saw that my teachers were helping me. With teaching, you’re actually able to make a real difference in kids’ lives. Small or big.”

—Brittany Johnson

In 2017, Johnson began her studies at UVic in child and youth care after graduating from École Victor-Brodeur, switching into the teacher education program in second year. On top of her studies, she has worked as a bilingual instructor in several capacities including at the UVic Childcare Services’ Arbutus Centre.

Get outside your comfort zone

She strongly encourages other young educators to explore different areas of teaching and grade levels as a TOC and through practicum. “You’re validating what you believe to be true, which is that you want to teach. You’re also finding resources and making connections in schools. You get to work with a mentor, so it’s still stressful, but you’re supported.”

In 2021, Johnson took on a position with UVic Libraries Digital Scholarship Commons, building workshops and creating learning tools with technology like 3D printers. “It was so out of my comfort zone, being totally technology-based, but I wanted to try something different.”

The use of technology in the classroom is a complex conversation, and young teachers like Brittany are bearing in mind both the ethical and practical considerations using technology as educators.

“It’s evolving so fast, and can be a really useful tool. My little brother, who has a learning disability, benefits hugely from using technology. But with creative approaches to learning, the computer can present limitations. It’s very interesting to think about.”

She cites the many online resources like Google Read&Write that have useful applications in the classroom. “It’s an inclusive approach to learning because it can read out loud to you, and it can be in different languages.”

The upside of the internet 

She also says access to the internet can be a good way to demonstrate learning, because teachers don’t know everything. “When there are limits to my knowledge, I can access resources in class and we can learn together, or I can support my students in a guided inquiry so they become the experts and teach the class. That can be an amazing assessment tool.”

Johnson is the co-president of the Education Students’ Association, where she worked on several student-led initiatives including leading a team to pull off the faculty’s first-ever virtual co-op and career fair with only four weeks’ notice. In May 2022, Brittany received the Dean’s Undergraduate Student Service Award for her remarkable work building community and fostering inclusivity within the Faculty of Education.  

Johnson says her immediate plan is simply to teach—with longer-term goals including a certificate in special education, a graduate degree and eventually a PhD focusing on curriculum and pedagogy.

As she embarks on her next chapter, Johnson is reflecting on her experience at UVic. “There’s a strong community and a positive environment in the MacLaurin building. You feel welcomed and appreciated, and the teachers have that extra five minutes after class if you need something.”

When Johnson is asked if she is now one of those teachers? “Absolutely.”


In this story

Keywords: convocation, student life, education, youth

People: Brittany Johnson

Publication: The Ring

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