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Passion For Justice Guides Teaching (read more)

Passion for Justice Guides Religion Teacher

Love of film a tool to engage students

            On the St. Joseph High School website, fifth-year religion teacher James Johnson lists his greatest interests as “social justice, community building, interfaith dialogue, and integral education.” For each of these interests, Johnson proves daily that he is a man who walks the talk.

            “By joining the Catholic Church and becoming an educator, I was able to integrate everything I loved about social-justice organizing and activism,” said Johnson, the son of Baptist parents with whom he spent 10 years in Central America as part of their missionary work.

            “Discussing moral issues with students is so enlivening and feels more urgent than ever.”

            Originally from North Carolina, Johnson studied at Davidson College before working as a housing and environmental activist in a Catholic Worker community in Winona, Minnesota.

            In 2014, he and his wife, Molly, moved to Chicago, where Johnson completed his master’s degree in theology at Loyola University Chicago.

            Besides teaching Religion 1, Introduction to Christianity, and Religion 3, Social Justice and Ethics, Johnson leads a semester course titled Film and Spirituality. He also moderates the Film Club, which has been meeting virtually during the pandemic.

            “Since I was a teenager, I’ve loved film as an art form. It’s such a powerful way to raise awareness, promote empathy, and explore new cultures. I love watching thought-provoking films with engaged students and giving them opportunities to make their own short films to creatively express themselves.”

            Johnson helped lead a “March for Our Lives” event in 2018, recently organized a Black Lives Matter art project for St. Joes main corridor, and promotes justice causes through his junior homeroom, known throughout the school as the “Justice League.”         

             Johnson has provided for his students an outstanding example of what he hopes each of his Chargers will model – an active peacemaker, not unlike that provided by the one whose birth we recently celebrated.

            The last sentence of Johnson’s website is: “I love being a part of the St. Joes community, and enjoy collaborating with students, parents, and other teachers.” 

            Mr. Johnson, we are grateful for your presence in our community as well. Thank you!