Former Instructor’s widespread skill set broadens Technology Center’s impact on current students; helping pave the way to success.
Kristy Johnson has dedicated over a decade of her career to educate and equip students at Eastern Oklahoma County Technology Center. Each role she transitioned to over the last 12 years have differed in various ways, but her passion to develop a connection with students and continue to guide them in the area of future education remained a strong priority when she stepped away from the full-time classroom and in to her current position as the College Connections Coordinator/Financial Aid Registrar.
Johnson originally planned to study Business but changed her major to Education at the last minute when she felt the pull to go into teaching, instead.
“I wanted to be a Difference-Maker, I wanted to be a World-Changer, for sure,” Johnson said. “I probably could’ve done that in some way with a Business degree but I really thought a lot about the teachers that had shaped me and had been a part of my life.”
Johnson went through college with a plan to teach, began her student teaching requirement and on the second day, fearing teaching wasn’t for her, decided to go a different route after college. She worked for a Publishing Company for a few years and then transitioned to teaching students in a one-on-one type setting at Sylvan Learning Center. Johnson worked there for 7 years, functioning as a teacher and also as a Director.
“That was kind of a combination of Business and Education,” Johnson said. “I had a lot of amazing opportunities with them and worked five years in North Carolina and then two years in St. Louis for Sylvan.”
When Johnson and her family moved to Oklahoma, she took a job at a bank but realized she missed students and teaching and made the transition back to the classroom at Choctaw Junior High, where she taught English for two years. When Choctaw High School opened the Freshman Center, Johnson taught a ‘Strategies for Success’ class to help students as they transitioned into high school. She taught the class for one year before she was recruited to interview for the Explore Instructor position at EOC Tech.”
Through Explore, Johnson led Sophomore students through career assessments, college connection resources, career planning, and guided them through different programs to “explore” for a 3 week time period, building a foundation with what caught their interest, before they were able to enroll during their Junior and Senior years.
“I really liked Explore and I had done a lot of things with it, but I missed the consistency of having students that knew me for longer than the short rotations of Explore,” she said. “So I ended up switching positions with the Communications Instructor, and when I did that, we rebranded to ‘Leadership, Employability, Academics, Problem Solving,’ (LEAP).”
Johnson was the LEAP Instructor for 10 years. During that time she worked with various EOC Tech Full-Time programs to enhance the college and career readiness of students. Her unique skill set in the realms of business and education brought a beneficial balance of useful tools and knowledge to LEAP, as well as a genuine passion to see students succeed; making her a very versatile asset to the Technology Center.
“As a part of LEAP, I was helping students transition to college, so I was helping with FAFSA, ACT Prep, college applications and college scholarships from the front side of things,” she said. “When I heard that the Financial Aid position was open for new applications, I started thinking that maybe it was time for me to take a break from the classroom again.”
Johnson brainstormed with the EOC Tech Administration about what the Financial Aid position could be and if there was a way to keep her connections with students while in the new role. To make this happen, LEAP was split in half, with Johnson taking the Academics (college and career) portion.
“We settled on changing what Financial Aid looked like, so in conjunction with managing the funding for students who are receiving different forms of grants and scholarships, I’m also able to add in the piece of helping students get ready to go to college.”
Although EOC Tech offers hard trade programs designed to equip students with certifications and specialty skills to confidently enter the workplace upon completing the program – often right after high school – many students choose to pursue college after finishing a program and are able to leave with a clear direction on a career path while they continue their education. Part of Johnson’s job is to take students on college visits which is something she enjoys because it’s often outside of the public’s view of Career Tech and the role they play in education.
“Last year we were able to take Electrical and HVAC students on a college visit for the first time,” she said. “We also took Firefighting students to OSU-OKC and while I’ve been taking students from programs like STEM on college tours for years as a part of LEAP, the truth is that many of our students from all different programs are choosing to go to two or four year colleges after graduating from their program at EOC Tech.”
In addition to college visits, Johnson offers workshops for ACT Prep, Scholarship Writing and FAFSA. She also provides individual Financial Aid guidance for students, as well as enrollment assistance at Rose State College.
While not in the classroom full-time anymore, Johnson still considers herself to be a passionate educator.
“I view this as just a different way to serve students,” she said. “Last year, as my first year in this position, it was so rewarding to see the outstanding students that received Financial Aid because they wouldn’t have been able to afford to go to school otherwise. So it’s just a different impact and it’s exciting to pair the Financial Aid piece which is required, with the excitement of what is next for students that want to continue post secondary education.”
The blend of Financial Aid and College Readiness is a fairly unique concept and the rebranding required helps EOC Tech better communicate their multifaceted mission to students and community members.
“Obviously we have a high percentage of students who choose to go to work right after high school and I love that, I love that about Career Tech,” she said. “But I think one of the things that’s interesting about this position is that not only does it play to my strengths – building a connection with students – but it also helps take away the stigma that it’s ‘Career Tech or college’ and sends the message to our students that they can go together.”