Veteran Army colonel takes on a new challenge in the classroom
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Kentucky’s veteran volunteer of the year has traded in his army fatigues and place in the front lines for a spot at the head of a Jefferson County Public Schools classroom.
The 6th graders at Thomas Jefferson Middle School don’t need to open a textbook to learn what it’s like on the battlefield. That’s because their new social studies teacher is retired Army Colonel Fred Johnson.
“I was working as a military contractor for a large military contracting firm in the US at Fort Knox and I learned that there was a shortage of teachers,” Johnson said. “I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.”
Johnson immediately started working on his teacher certification. It wasn’t long until he was hired at Thomas Jefferson.
“It happened within a week and a half, two-week span that I went from being senior consultant at this contracting firm to being Mr. Colonel Johnson at 6th grade middle school Thomas Jefferson Patriots,” Johnson said.
A quick change in careers, but still a patriot.
Johnson said his time in the military, which includes two tours in Iraq, one is Bosnia, and another in Afghanistan has given him a huge boost in the classroom and a lot of clout with the kids.
“You’ve got to think about it, these young men and women their entire lives have been at war, our nation has been at war,” Johnson said. “They’ve seen the images, they’ve heard the stories and now they have an opportunity to meet one, which is kind of secondary thing that I wanted to do as a veteran. I want to connect America’s military with American people and this is one way to do it, as a teacher.”
With 111 vacant teaching positions, Johnson hopes others with diverse experiences will see their talents can be used at JCPS too.
“What I want people to take away is even before you thank a veteran, thank a teacher for their service to our nation," Johnson said, “because I’ve been blessed to serve our nation 30 years as a soldier, rise to the rank of colonel, which is no small feat, and I was given the opportunity to serve my nation because I had teachers that modeled that for me.”
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