Longtime Burlingame science teacher Ms. Johnson moving on from teaching

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Mattingly Germack

Ms. Johnson’s seventh period environmental science class wished her farewell on Thursday with a variety of thank you signs.

Mattingly Germack, Staff Reporter

Burlingame is saying goodbye to environmental science and biology teacher Heather Johnson after 14 years. She will be moving to Seaside High School in Seaside, Calif., part of the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District. There, she will become a teaching instructor, helping new teachers develop their skills.

Additionally, she is currently working to get her masters degree in educational administration at Concordia University.

Johnson started at Burlingame in 2007 after one year of teaching biology at Truckee High School in Truckee, Calif. She has taught both biology and environmental science for her entire tenure here. Over those 14 years, Johnson says she has had too many amazing students and experiences to mention, but one that she did mention was Jeffrey Chen, who graduated from Burlingame in 2020. He was the winner of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation’s worldwide science video competition in 2019 for which he was awarded a $400,000 scholarship. As his environmental science teacher, Johnson received $50,000, and was given the opportunity to surprise him with his award. 

Science can be more unpredictable than other classes, due to the hands-on nature of many of the labs. This has led to some less positive but memorable incidents for Johnson over her 14 years at Burlingame. A fire started in her classroom after students broke rules and put pipe cleaners in an electrical socket, a well-intentioned trash audit lab inadvertently led to some unfortunate lessons on personal hygiene and one of her labs involving Play-Doh was the alleged cause of burst sewer pipes, flooding the C building hallway in 2019. These moments could have led her to be angry, but Johnson was determined to always keep a positive attitude.

“Those were the moments where I always tried to choose laughter over getting upset about something,” Johnson said.

On May 13, Johnson was greeted by her seventh period environmental science class with thank you signs, bringing her to tears. The signs were a heartfelt reminder of how much she will miss interacting with students, something that teaching instructors do not do as much.

“My favorite thing is having students as freshmen… and then later as a junior or senior. It’s just lovely to see kids grow over time,” Johnson said through tears.

While she looks forward to the challenges her new job will bring, Johnson says she will miss the community that Burlingame gave her.

“This is where I grew as an educator, and I couldn’t have done that without lovely students,” Johnson said. “[They were] always willing to fail, succeed, laugh and learn with me.”