Posted on Tuesday, January 28, 2020

*Featured image:  2020 Virginia Teacher of the Year Andrea Johnson, center, was honored on the floor of the Virginia House of Delegates on January 23. Beside her and also honored: Rodney Robinson, 2019 Virginia and National Teacher of the Year.

“If you had told me in high school that I was going to be a teacher in a K-12 system, I would have laughed at you. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do for a long time.”
– Andrea Carson Johnson, 2020 Virginia Teacher of the Year

Andrea Johnson always enjoyed being around young people. After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees, she worked in a 4-H camp in Sussex County for several years.
“I was a full-fledged adult. I was 30 years old when I started to feel this calling for the classroom,” said Johnson.

With one small child at home and another on the way, she decided to earn her teacher license, and Johnson enrolled in the EducateVA/VCCS Career Switchers program.

The Career Switchers program is offered at eight community colleges around Virginia and is organized by the Community College Workforce Alliance (CCWA).

Less costly and more streamlined than licensure programs offered through traditional colleges and universities, Career Switchers has trained more than 1,800 people to become Virginia school teachers since 2004.

The teacher licensure program is now part of the FastForward career training program at the VCCS, and has enabled people from wide ranging backgrounds to begin new callings as teachers.
“Ms. Johnson’s accomplishments are a shining example of the significant contributions career switchers are making in schools across the Commonwealth,” said Kimberly Ogden, director of

EducateVA. “It’s wonderful to know that EducateVA offered a pathway to the classroom for this outstanding educator.”

“The combination of online and face to face instruction worked incredibly well for me, because the online part allowed me to work at home,” said Johnson. “I would work a lot in the evenings after work and at night and on the weekends, which allowed me to maintain my job and maintain my family roles, but also do what I needed to do to be personally fulfilled in my quest to become a teacher.”

Johnson earned her teacher license through EducateVA/Career Switchers in 2011-2012. An instructor at Salem High School near Roanoke since 2014, she has served as chair of the school’s English department since 2017.

In the words of the unanimous legislative resolution honoring her, “the joy and energy Andrea Johnson brings to teaching every day inspires in her students a love for learning and compels them to succeed both in and out of the classroom.”

“I knew that a traditional college program would have been out of the question for me,” said Johnson. “I felt this calling. I just knew I was supposed to be in the classroom, and without the Career Switcher program that would not have happened for me. Quite literally it changed my life.”

Learn more about EducateVA/VCCS Career Switchers program here.'

Jim Babb

Jim Babb works for Virginia's Community Colleges in the Office of Strategic Communications.

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