Whenever Erick Johnson goes to a Dallas Cowboys home game, he beams with pride, knowing that he helped build AT&T Stadium more than a dozen years ago.
But those accomplishments pale in comparison with the joy that Johnson has felt during the past nine years at Bessie Coleman Middle School.
"With construction, you can always look at buildings later and be proud of what you accomplished," said Johnson, a Cedar Hill Citizen and the 2021-2022 Bessie Coleman Middle School Teacher of the Year. "With teaching, you see your scholars' success, and it changes lives."
Johnson is a Physical Education Teacher and Athletic Coordinator at Bessie Coleman. He's the head coach for basketball and cross-country. He's on the coaching staff for football & track & field.
Early in his career, he learned the importance of flexibility and empathy.
"I had a scholar in my Physical Education class who wasn't athletic and every Friday, he skipped class because we ran the mile," Johnson said. "I learned to meet scholars where they are."
Johnson approached the scholar and encouraged him to run a lap and then two. Eventually, that built his confidence, and he went to Cedar Hill High School, where he made the Longhorns' Varsity Football Team during the Joey McGuire Era.
"He came back and said, 'coach, it's all because you believed in me," Johnson said. "That's why I'm here-to change lives. Believing in kids at this level goes a long way."
Johnson regularly communicates with his colleagues on campus to incorporate their curriculums into his PE lesson plans.
"Teaching has taught me to be a good leader-more of a servant leader," Johnson said.
Johnson, a father of six (including a CHISD Graduate), is humbled by the honor.
"A tear came to my eye when I learned about this honor," Johnson said. "I'm honored that my fellow teachers look at me as a Teacher of the Year."
Johnson grew up in Dallas and played basketball and football for Pinkston High. Shortly after high school, he found a job in construction.
"I was able to work my way up to supervisor," Johnson said.
Johnson's construction career, with TD Industries, took him to Houston, Florida, and Washington D.C. He worked on projects such as Epcot Center at Walt Disney World, Texas Instruments in Dallas, and of course, AT&T Stadium, which was part of the HVAC Installation at the stadium's south tower.
Johnson earned a Sociology Degree from the University of North Texas in Denton. After briefly coaching in Dallas, he joined the staff at Bessie Coleman. Besides coaching middle school athletics, he's scouted high school opponents for McGuire and Cedar Hill head boys' basketball coach Corey Chism.
Johnson still works construction in the summer, but he's truly found his purpose in the classroom.
"I've always wanted to give back," Johnson said. "There was a construction company that wanted me to work full time for them. They offered me a large contract and a new truck, but I said 'no' because I enjoy working with scholars."
Story from Longhorn Newsroom - ow.ly/S8V450IK5Fe