New LaGrange High School principal Penny Johnson originally didn’t intend to get into education, but it captured her heart.
“That’s my area of gifts and passion,” Johnson said. “And I felt that’s where I was called to be.”
Starting her career in mechanical engineering, Johnson began teaching drafting at a private school her children attended in Michigan.
“I didn’t realize I had a heart for education,” Johnson said. “… When I learned that’s where my gifts and passion was, I returned to school as a traditional student to get my bachelor’s degree in education.”
Johnson taught for five years in Michigan and has been an educator for 14 years. In July, she officially became principal of LaGrange High School.
After a month in school with students and classes in full swing, Johnson said it’s been a smooth transition.
“We had a great opening,” Johnson said. “Our students have transitioned into classes … we have a really strong staff, and it’s all gone very well.”
Retired principal Steve Cole has offered his support since she came on board and said the faculty also helped with her transition.
“I have to say, my administrative team is very strong and supportive,” Johnson said. “I think the teachers are very well-qualified and care an awful lot about the students.”
Originally from Detroit, Johnson said she appreciates the “quality” of LaGrange, from downtown to the community focus on the arts. She added that parental and community involvement with the school system also has impressed her.
“I appreciate the fact that the school is highly supported by the community,” Johnson said. “And not just the parents, but the businesses as well.”
Johnson said she’s worked in schools larger and smaller than LHS, but finds the diversity and size of her new school to be the perfect fit.
Johnson said she wants to make sure LHS is prepared for state curriculum changes. Part of those include moves toward preparing students for post-school life, whether it’s a career or college, teachings that Johnson said the school needs to align with.
This is Johnson’s first job as principal, but feels she’s had the experience to prepare her for the job. She’s held spots from assistant principal in charge of curriculum to athletic director, and said leaders she has worked with in the past have helped her along the way, “so I feel very well prepared.”
“LaGrange High is rich with tradition, and I appreciate the information and the knowledge about the traditions (and) I look forward to continuing them,” Johnson said. “I think it’s a good fit and I look forward to what we can do here together as a team.”