Kathryn Johnston wins STEM Teacher of the Month


Audrey Kelly, Website Production Team

For Kathryn Johnston, who recently received the Lowcountry’s STEM Educator award for November, architecture isn’t just a hobby — it’s a lifestyle.

In ninth grade, her teacher told her class to paint the Sixteenth Chapel on the bottom of their desks, and by doing so, sparked a passion inside of her.

“I would give her that credit for making me realize that I wanted to go into that career. She would have an architect come in every month and teach us about all of it,” Johnston said.

After going to school and becoming licensed in architecture, she had no idea she would also become a teacher eventually — but the recession came. In 2008, when no buildings were being put up, she decided to volunteer at Wando for senior projects and later that summer, applied for the job. The rest is history.

Now, eight years later, Johnston has co-founded the STEM Academy here, as well as being the head of the Math, Science and Engineering board, teaching two different classes and raising her small children.

As of today, she still retains her license and continues to do architecture on the side as a fallback career plan.

“There are ups and downs. It gets very hard sometimes with so many moving parts, but I have always said once I stop loving it, I’ll stop doing it. It just so happens I still love what I do,” Johnston said.

And she is not the only one who is thankful for her teaching — recently two separate students in one day came up to her and said they decided to major in architecture and asked for advice.

“It is amazing to see the students light up about this stuff. I wanna show them that everything they do can have a real life purpose. Electives like this are critical to show that things such as math connects to stuff they are interested in. And if you can be a good, caring, respectful person on top of that — that’s what I want to relay to my students,” Johnston said.

Her kids helped teach her those things. As she focused more on the “people” side of life, she realized that all one needs is to be kind. As they, and her students grow, Johnston wants them to truly grasp that idea.

“I just hope that comes out in how I teach. I want to make lasting impacts that gives people passions — just like my ninth grade teacher did,” she said.

And so possibly, the next project she assigns will be to paint the Sixteenth Chapel.