North Penn library secretary Janice Johnson to retire


Sameera Rachakonda

Library secretary Janice Johnson poses by the bookshelves. Johnson will retire this year.

TOWAMENCIN- As North Penn High School students enter the library, they are greeted with several familiar faces, one of whom is library secretary Janice Johnson. Always offering a helpful hand to her students and coworkers, Johnson will be retiring this year after working at the high school for 19 years.

North Penn High School library secretary Janice Johnson has been working in the district for 23 years, 19 of them spent at the high school. After working in the library at Oak Park Elementary School for a few years, Johnson found her home in the high school library in December of 1999.

Although she’s worked in the North Penn School District for over two decades, Johnson spent some time without a professional job, instead focusing on taking care of her four kids.

“Before [working], I was a mother and a housewife. I have four children, four boys who are out of the house now. They’re ranging from 40 to 30,” said Johnson.

Working in a high school was not Johnson’s initial plan. After getting her license in cosmetology at a technical career center in high school, she became a hairstylist and worked in a private salon for a couple of years.

“I was a hairstylist before Oak Park. My husband decided to go back to school so I went with him. And when he graduated, we moved to the area,” Johnson shared.

Even though she began as a hairstylist, Johnson acknowledges that she never really felt very passionate about the career path.

“[Hairstyling]’s just something my parents kind of pushed me in, I don’t think I would have done that,” admitted Johnson.

Johnson was attracted to working in a school setting primarily because of its liberal hours. As a mother of four boys, she expresses that it would have been difficult for her to keep up with a year-round, full-time job as well as manage a home.

“I didn’t really want a full time job because I had children I had to be concerned about. The money I made would go down in day care and I didn’t have anyone else at home. My husband is a professional so I was basically the one to take care of the kids. With having the young children, it’s easy to have your summers off. I have snow days and get holidays so I didn’t have to worry about babysitters. This was the perfect job for a mother,” Johnson explained.

Even though she’s been here for 19 years, Johnson still faces struggles familiar to many students at the high school.

“I still get lost after being here for 19 years. I still get lost in the building. I have to look out the window and get my bearings,” laughed Johnson.

Having the opportunity to watch various classes of students enter and leave the high school, Johnson has observed the maturation of all the different students she encounters and it never fails to amaze her.

“I always enjoy watching the sophomores. I always enjoy watching them come in, they’re a little apprehensive and a little scared. But then after I see the sophomores and they turn into juniors and they turn into seniors and they mature over those years, that’s what’s fun. I like working around the young people. And they mature so quickly, even from summer to summer when you don’t see them. There are so many driven North Penn students and I see a lot of that being in the library.”

As she leaves the high school, Johnson will miss her coworkers and the other secretaries in the building that she has gotten to know. In addition, she’ll miss the students that she’s worked with over the years.

“I’ll miss the students because they keep you young. When I’m out shopping, I do see students and it’s nice that they still remember who I am,” expressed Johnson.

Although she’ll miss a lot about the high school, one thing she’s looking forward to is something nearly all high schoolers can relate to as their own graduation date creeps closer and closer.

“I’m looking forward to being able to sleep in and not have to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning,” Johnson laughed.

In addition to the luxury of not waking up to a blaring alarm clock anymore, Johnson is also looking forward to spending time with her family and hopefully being able to travel more and embark on various trips.

“I have three grandchildren so I’ll be able to spend some more time with them. My husband’s also retired but we haven’t really planned anything yet. I think next fall we’ll take a trip somewhere. I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska so maybe I’ll be on a cruise to Alaska. I think I haven’t explored enough of the United States. I’ve been to several other states but I want to go and explore different states, just day trips or weekend trips,” said Johnson.

While she’s looking forward to traveling around the country, Johnson has already had some once-in-a-lifetime adventures from her past.

“I was at Woodstock many years ago. It was awesome. I was 19, it was back in 1969, and 6 of us girlfriends, we got in. My one girlfriend had a VW bus, I mean that’s really ancient. We all piled in the bus. There was 6 of us, we all got in the bus, and off we went. The weather was really nasty, it was rainy. It was very eye-opening to me cause I was very naive and I saw a lot of things that I didn’t know what was going on,” Johnson reminisced.

From working in the field of education for quite some time, Johnson has her thoughts about where she sees the future of education going, and due to recent societal changes, to her, a great deal of the future of education involves technology.

“I think the future of education is so technology driven that I can see virtual schools where there won’t be a classroom environment like there is now, and I think that the textbooks will all go digital. Where my daughter in law works, they don’t have snow days. When it snows, they log in and do their work virtually so they don’t have to make up their time at the end of the school year. I can see that coming in the near future. It would be really nice to not make up snow days. I can see the learning process changing in that the classes would be student oriented so it would be for individual students dependent on what your skills are. I can see that in probably the next 10 to 15 years,” Johnson commented.

With a technological driven educational future as a prediction in her mind, Johnson admits that she is someone who embraces technology and is excited to learn new digital skills.

“I embrace technology. I’ve always had an interest in it. When something new comes along, I try to use it just to get the skill. I go to a class and just start asking questions,” said Johnson.

A lot has changed in schools over the last twenty years and as an educator who has been exposed to much of those changes, Johnson recognizes all the changes from class sizes to technology to inclusion.

“The class sizes have changed. It used to be there was 15 maybe 20 kids in a class, now there’s 27 to 35 kids in a class. The special ed needs have improved where I think the administration has recognized some students do struggle in certain areas and they have learning disabilities, and I’m glad that has happened,” Johnson shared.

As she moves forward into the next chapter of her life, Johnson hopes she has left a legacy as someone who was always helpful and willing to be there for the students she has met.

“I hope that I was helpful, that I was a safe place to come to. I try to help as much as I can. You never really know what’s going on in a student’s mind, what kind of personal baggage they have that day. I only see a small percentage of the student body, but I hope that I’ve made a nice impact on them.”