The student news site of Benilde-St. Margaret's School in St. Louis Park, MN

Knight Errant

The student news site of Benilde-St. Margaret's School in St. Louis Park, MN

Knight Errant

The student news site of Benilde-St. Margaret's School in St. Louis Park, MN

Knight Errant

Ms. Johnson to retire after 43 years


After 43 years of teaching art, inspiring students, and exhibiting expert fashion sense, Ms. Jan Johnson, one of Benilde-St. Margaret’s art teachers, will retire at the end of the 2011 school year, leaving behind a lasting influence on the art program of Benilde-St. Margaret’s and all students and teachers who knew her.


Starting Fresh

Starting as an art teacher at St. Margaret’s Academy fresh from college in 1968, Ms. Johnson quickly grew to love what would be a long lasting career at the school. “I came straight from college, so this was just my first and last job…I’ve spent a lot of my life here,” said Ms. Johnson.

In fact, her time at the school goes back much farther than any other current teacher. “She’s the last of the teachers who taught at St. Margaret’s academy…I think that’s significant, and we sort of lose a sense of history as she retires,” said Dr. Skinner, senior high principal.

Her job had its challenges when she first began working. “The previous art teacher just left and left nothing as far as ideas about how they did their program. Plus they had just changed to a new scheduling system…I kind of walked in cold,” said Ms. Johnson.

This didn’t stop her from doing the job and being there to experience great changes within the school. “Coming here with the boys and girls when the schools merged––that was a whole new experience too, but it turned out to be really good,” said Ms. Johnson.

This change gave Ms. Johnson the new responsibility of building what grew to become Benilde-St. Margaret’s current art program. “She came here when Benilde and St. Margaret’s merged, so she was the art program until the early 80s,” said Ms. Theresa Puffer, art teacher and Fine Arts Department Co-Chair.


Bittersweet Farewell

Ms. Johnson will soon begin a new chapter in her life with the decision to retire. “I haven’t really decided if it’s easy. It took me a couple of years to come to the decision,” said Ms. Johnson.

This choice may have been influenced by her husband’s recent retirement. “I knew that after her husband retired she would probably want to retire soon,” said Ms. Rosalie Goldberg, friend and fellow teacher.

Though she’s had many good years at Benilde-St. Margaret’s, Ms. Johnson wanted to take some time to relax. “I thought I’d like a little time for myself to have my own life and do some of the things I’d wanted to do on my own, like in art,” said Ms. Johnson.

Though she made the decision thoughtfully, there will be aspects of working at Benilde-St. Margaret’s that she will miss. “I know that something that I’m going to miss are the people…it’s going to be a real switch,” said Ms. Johnson.

The students also have been an important part of her years at St. Margaret’s Academy and Benilde-St. Margaret’s. “I’ve really loved working with high school students a lot…you can see them improve on their work and have a real passion for it,” said Ms. Johnson.

Spending time with high school students is not just inspiring, but also fun for Ms. Johnson. “I love the students, they keep me up to date with all the crazy things and trends that are going on, so it’s been a lot of fun just to hang around with the kids and to do creative artwork,” said Ms. Johnson.


The Legacy

While this transition will influence Ms. Johnson greatly, it will also leave a mark on the school. “I think her presence will really be missed because I think she’s guided a lot of students into very good art careers and art paths,” said Ms. Goldberg.

Ms. Johnson’s long-lasting dedication to the school and the art department made this great impact. “I feel she’s dedicated her heart and soul to this school,” said Ms. Nancy Stockhaus, choir teacher and good friend of Ms. Johnson.

This dedication comes from passion for what she does and her ability to help students reach their full potential. “I think she will leave behind her love for the arts and her love for students and the way she really appreciates how talent can be pulled out of students,” said Dr. Skinner.

The school as a whole will surely feel the absence of this teacher with so much history in the building and passion for her job. “We’ll miss her a lot, especially because of her commitment to students and her commitment to the art department,” said Dr. Skinner.


Built Relationships

Ms. Johnson’s work with students will be especially remembered. “Students can say nothing but great, great things about her, and I think that says a lot about her,” said Ms. Stockhaus.

As a favorite among students, few can see anyone living up to her. “She’s my favorite teacher, and I feel really close to her…I don’t think anyone’s going to be as good of a painting teacher as her,” said senior Chelsea Theilman, Ms. Johnson’s teacher assistant.

Students love her attitude and her ability to build strong bonds with students. “Ms. J is a great teacher because she’s just a very fun-loving woman…She’s like the mother of painting,” said sophomore Megan Beh.

This high opinion of the students comes from her dedication and joy in working with them. “Whenever I go down there she’s always helping students and working with them, and she’s never sitting at her desk,” said Ms. Goldberg.

She will also be remembered as a good friend to several of the teachers who will be sad to see her go. “I’m going to miss her a lot. She’s been my neighbor downstairs and it’s going to be hard,” said Ms. Stockhaus.


Moving Forward

Once the difficult farewells have been exchanged at the end of the year, Ms. Johnson hopes to live a relaxed yet lively retirement. “It will be less stressful, and I would like to just kind of relax for a bit and travel, do some art and that sort of thing, so I don’t think I’ll run out of things to do,” said Ms. Johnson.

As she enjoys this new way of life, the school will be working hard to fill the big shoes she will leave behind. “Finding a replacement for her is going to be difficult because she has so much experience, and so our job would be to find someone who loves art and loves high school students,” said Dr. Skinner.

Ms. Johnson doesn’t know whether she will ever visit Benilde-St. Margaret’s after she leaves. “I can’t say for sure that I wouldn’t, but I know that it’s going to be like…a big part of me just kind of missing,” said Ms. Johnson.

Though she will no longer be working at Benilde-St. Margaret’s, Ms. Johnson will always be a part of the school. “I think she’s one heck of a legacy, and I think people are going to remember her for a very very long time,” said Ms. Goldberg.


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The student news site of Benilde-St. Margaret's School in St. Louis Park, MN
Ms. Johnson to retire after 43 years