Weston Johnson was years behind his reading level in middle school, but now is an author and educator who supports struggling students and their parents and teachers. His story is of how determination, hard work and perseverance can lead to success.
Johnson had a typical childhood growing up in Anoka. He was surrounded by a supportive community of friends and family, but there was one thing Johnson struggled with: reading.
“When you think about a typical childhood, you probably don’t think that reading difficulties would be a part of it, but it is a fairly common problem,” Johnson said. “And for me, reading difficulties became a defining aspect of my childhood.”
His parents realized in second grade that he needed additional support. In an attempt to help him overcome his reading problem, his parents hired a tutor, brought him to a clinic to be tested and did a short trial with Ritalin, a drug that treats ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
“At school I noticed friends being placed in more advanced reading groups and classes,” Johnson said. “Meanwhile, I would be taken out of class to do additional reading lessons in elementary school or be assigned to remedial classes in later grades.”
By middle school, Johnson was reading years behind his grade level, but then he met his reading teacher, Sue Klund.
“Her dedication sparked my interest in reading. Her main message was to read and read a lot. When I entered high school, I was still struggling but I had gained a passion for reading. In the end, I got through it. That is what is important. To me, completing high school meant I could have a fresh start,” Johnson said.
After high school, Johnson went to St. Cloud University and graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in special education for learning disabilities. This past fall he earned a Doctorate of Education from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.
“It has all been an interesting journey and I’m glad that my own learning journey lets me support students on their journey,” Johnson said.
Johnson is now an instructional coach for the Goodhue County Education District where he supports students struggling with reading and supports teachers and professional learning communities to achieve their improvement goals.
“I like learning and I like to help others learn,” Johnson said. “It feels good to support others on their learning journey. If I know something, I am happy to share it.”
Jillynne Raymond, assistant director of system development for Goodhue County Education District, said, “I've witnessed Weston grow in sharing his expertise with others and helping the adult learners with continuous improvement changes. He is extremely smart so sometimes he has to review things more simply for others. He's a patient, kind man with all learners.”
Johnson is the principal learning coach for his company, aLEARNcoach LLC, where he focuses on helping parents who have children struggling with reading problems.
“We’re all in this together, so relationships are really important,” Johnson said. “That’s one of the reasons parents are such great partners. In general, a parent is the earliest and most consistent support for a child’s learning.”
In January 2021, Johnson’s book “Purposeful Teaching: A Reflection on the Practice of Supporting Students as They Learn” was released.
“I wrote it to be a yearlong reflection on the purpose of teaching,” Johnson said. “A teacher’s purpose is to support student learning. There is a comfort and a value in continually centering on that purpose. Each chapter of the book is designed to encourage a deeper self-reflection on that purpose throughout the school year.”
Jonhson’s book can be found for purchase on Barnes and Noble’s website and teachers can currently download it for free on Teachers Pay Teachers at the aLEARNcoach store.