New math teacher brings world of experience to students
New Algebra I and Algebra Foundations 1 teacher Lauren Johnson moves around the classroom asking students if they are in need of assistance in Aug. 16. Photo taken by Accolade photographer Brianna Zafra.

Traveling to multiple unfamiliar and foreign countries, Lauren Johnson carries myriads of experiences before arriving at Sunny Hills. 

Johnson is the wife of a technician in the U.S. Air Force, who gets transferred every so often to different military bases all over the world. Because of that, she has had to make sacrifices and adapt to multiple cultures within the last 10 years. 

Though she never really settled down in one city for longer than four years, one thing always remained — her heart for teaching. 

With tons of experience since 2004 as an instructor in three states and in Europe, Johnson has added Fullerton to her latest educational destination, teaching Algebra 1 and Algebra Foundations 1.

Earning her bachelor’s degree in mathematics at California State University, Fullerton, in 2007 and a master’s degree in mathematics education at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, in 2013, Johnson said her teaching experience spans seven other schools before arriving here. 

As her eighth year as a public school teacher and 12 years teaching in total, Johnson has taught all ages from junior high to university students.

She started her instructional journey at Lewis Middle School in San Diego, teaching AVID for mostly sixth graders. 

A year later when her husband had to report to a base in Alaska, she moved on to North Pole Middle School in Alaska, where she student taught for Math 8 and Algebra 1 classes. 

“I remember wearing converse and being freezing cold when I got there,” Johnson said. “It reached minus 70 degrees Fahrenheit!”

At the end of that school year, she decided to take a position as a co-instructor, teaching college-level algebra for people who wanted to be counselors at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in North Pole.

“They were adults going back to school, so there is a different level of commitment and drive [compared to the middle schoolers],” Johnson said.

By 2009, Johnson’s husband got the call again to move to another military base — this time, even farther and out of the country to Europe.

“I had to get used to the warmer weather in comparison to Alaska,” said Johnson of her transition to her job working as a daycare provider for 1-year-olds at a child development center in Aviano, Italy. “We had packed all these parkas that ended up being in the storage in Italy.”

Three years later because of her husband’s transfer to Idaho, Johnson found work at Riverglen Junior High at Boise, Idaho, where she was assigned to teach seventh to ninth-graders Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2 and Precalculus for four years. 

She decided to go back once again to higher education, working as a part-time professor at Northwest Nazarene University in Boise and teaching at Riverglen simultaneously from 2015-2016. 

“It was outside work that allowed me to stretch my skills as an instructor,” Johnson said. “Every level of student teaches you something new.”

As Johnson’s husband left the military, her family moved back to California and she took a job as an instructional coach for math teachers at Wilson High School in Hacienda Heights. Despite being a coach, she missed teaching students in her own classroom. 

When Johnson saw openings and applied at several different schools, she was interviewed by eight people from four schools all at once and ended up receiving a call back from human resources. 

“I live in Fullerton so when I saw there was a classroom job nearby, I jumped at the opportunity,” she said. “Now I get to work near my home and my children’s schools.”

Her interest in math — sparked by taking a math prerequisite called Math Initiative Thinking at Boise State in 2012 — made her realize how enjoyable the subject can be. 

I was disappointed that the fun side of math class wasn’t obvious to me when I was in school,” Johnson said. “So I wanted to help change that for future students.” 

She shares her positive outlook on math, conveying that the subject is about creativity and finding new ways to make life easier. Johnson said her favorite quote for students is “if math is the aspirin, what is the headache?” 

“Its something I say more to myself when I plan a lesson,” Johnson said. “ It was coined by Dan Meyer [a famous math educator.]”

Some of her hobbies include running, photography, musicals, reading, math and traveling. She ran three half-marathons, performed in seven musicals, visited more than 10 countries and lived overseas in Sacile, Italy from 2009-2012.

Outside of the classroom, Johnson said she has also presented at several math conferences and taught teachers about interactive notebooks, which involved a form of structured note taking that are also engaging for instructors’ future students to use.

“It is intimidating to present in front of your peers,” Johnson said. “I found out that I had interesting information to share and that everyone doesn’t think the same as me.” 

One of her students in fifth period Algebra 1, freshman Kiara Estrada, was quick to describe her first impression of her new teacher

“She was really nice and welcoming on the first day,” Estrada said. “I could tell she was interested to be our teacher.” 

Math Department chairwoman Mariam Tan says Johnson fits the qualities that the school looks for.

“She has spent years as both a classroom teacher and a teacher-leader,” Tan said. “She is both encouraging and knowledgeable about her craft.”

Johnson says that math is like a puzzle to be solved, not a pile of problems to compute. To help her students understand the material, she links math concepts to things students already know. 

“I use a ton of visuals that are very abstract,” she said. 

A puzzle that has worked for her in the past is one about Noah’s ark in which students are asked to evenly split the animals on the deck. The assignment contains illustrations of the animals, allowing students to visualize the problem, make thought-provoking interpretations and devise solutions to the question, she said.

“I am very excited to meet all the students and to become a Lancer,” Johnson said. “Your school pride is infectious, and I am excited to be a part of it!”

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