Educator Spotlight: Meet Chanel Johnson

Program specialist in Atlanta builds rapport with teachers through conversation, empathy

This story is part of a weekly series that celebrates outstanding teachers in our Flipgrid community. Stories by Angela Tewalt.


Years ago, a young Chanel Johnson was the chatty one in the classroom.


It’s not that she wasn’t a good listener or that she disrespected her teachers. Instead, she just loved being around people. She was talkative and extroverted, but she also knew she was capable.


“My senior year in high school, there was Teacher Cadet, a program for high-achieving kids,” recalls Chanel, a K-5 Science Lead in Atlanta, Georgia. “Now, I was the regular kid who teachers would often overlook because I was the talker, but when I asked my teacher to be a part of the program, I learned that even the high-achieving kids struggled, and I was the one who ended up teaching them math.


“That’s when I found my passion for teaching. However many kids were mislabeled like me, I wanted to go into education and advocate for them.”


Years later, she’s still striking up conversations. Chanel believes with all her heart in social learning – that we become better friends, better teachers and better family members when we simply get to know one another.


“If you’re going to come into my classroom, we’re going to talk, because I believe that’s how we learn,” Chanel says. “One of the things that’s never stopped about me is wanting to talk it out. I’m all about listening to different voices.”

Empathy: Meeting Teachers Where They’re At

Just like Chanel, her mother was a teacher. She was finishing college when Chanel was in high school, and because she saw how much her daughter enjoyed math, she would sneak her into night classes, where Chanel would not only explain the problems to her mom, she would help other adults in the classroom understand the work.


“My mom always talked about empathy,” Chanel says. “She taught me how to be patient and respect everyone’s journey. People process things at different times, but they’ll get there. Give people time and give them grace. I learned that from her.”

Chanel continues to work with adults today. She used to teach math and science until she became a program specialist for her district, now writing curriculum, training teachers and aligning pedagogy with the appropriate tech. To accomplish that, she sits down with educators every day to ensure they are not only familiarized with whatever tools they’re using, but that they understand how tech can support and enhance their own instruction.


Of course, this work begins with conversation.


“Before I teach you, I need to know who you are, and I want you to know who I am,” Chanel says. “I’m not above you, I’m not beneath you, I’m just here next to you! I will always have your back. I will always support you. It’s all about how you deliver to educators, because they’re all doing the best they can for their students.”

Chanel is straight-forward, honest and extremely dedicated. She courageously opens up conversations with both students and adults – not to serve herself, but because she believes in the potential in others. She walks into classrooms humbly and ready to help, always respecting each teacher for their own journey and eager to see what can be achieved together.


“People won’t learn from someone they don’t trust, so when you are building relationships, you have to be authentic about it,” Chanel says. “Don’t be afraid to have tough conversations, and don’t take it personal. Sometimes you get some bad days, but sometimes you can have amazing days, too. I always remember the goal: We’re all here for the students.”


Follow Chanel on Twitter.