Education Matters: Central STEM teacher finalist for APEX award

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT)-- It's not Science Fiction, a STEM class is actually popular among high school students at Central. The teacher is a little unorthodox but he's so successful at engaging students that he's being recognized by the Colorado Technology Association.

The school's Principal, Lance Sellden says he and other staff nominated Johnston because he's building the students they want all their kids to be.

"And it took us two or three years to go, wait those are the students we want to build. Not just Tech Ed students, and not just football players; not just STEM students not robotics," said Central High School Principal Lance Sellden.

Johnston came to the school straight out of the STEM industry, without a formal teaching education. But Sellden says that lack of experience hasn't slowed progress in the program. Last year they raised thousands of dollars by selling fidget spinner designed by students and made with the classes 3D printer.

Over the summer they sent students to an elite science camp. Right now, kids can get college credits while in his classes, according to the District.

So what makes this inexperienced teacher so effective? Just about everyone we talked to agreed; allowing students to fail, being flexible in your plans, and building positive relationships.

"I actually know from experience that is a recipe for being successful in life," said Phil Johnston, Central High STEM Coordinator.

He's a football coach after school and their biggest fan in the classroom.

"One good example is him tearing his Achilles heel of just over excitement for the students," said Josue Acevedo, a Central High Student.

It's staff like Johnston Principal Sellden wants carrying a torch and leading the way, "An education system for a world – Coach J said it – for a world that has not been created yet," said Sellden.

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