By Elianna Novitch
The College of Education welcomes Erika Johnson, a new assistant professor in Language, Literacy, and Culture.
Johnson got her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Amherst College, and after graduating, joined the Teach for America program, where she taught in a first-grade bilingual classroom in California. She then went on to get her Master of Arts degree in Education from University of California, Berkeley in 2003.
After ten years teaching in Title 1 elementary schools, Erika obtained her doctorate in Curriculum and Teacher Education from Stanford University in the department of language, literacy, and English Education. Before coming to the College of Education, Johnson held a Post-Doctoral Scholar position at Stanford University.
Johnson’s research interests include reading instruction with linguistically diverse student populations. She speaks Spanish and has experience working in multilingual classrooms herself.
“I’m interested in studying how we support teachers to teach reading when students are coming in with multiple languages, and often are in the process of learning English at the same time [as] knowing another language,” Johnson says.
Johnson says she hopes to eventually develop professional development opportunities for teachers to help support them in teaching reading in mainstream and multilingual classrooms and during ESL instruction. She is especially interested in studying integrated literacy and language instruction in upper-elementary contexts.
Along with conducting research in the College of Education, Johnson is also teaching a literacy methods class focused on intermediate students in the third to eighth grade level. Johnson explains that the class explores how teachers teach more advanced reading and writing skills to students who have a foundation of literacy either in English or in another language and how teachers can build on that foundation as students progress through the grade levels.
One key perspective that Johnson hopes her students take away from her course is the challenge and importance of getting to know the language and literacy backgrounds of their students and then using that information to inform their teaching.
“I want them to take away that their instruction needs to be responsive to all of the strengths that students are bringing with them, rather than thinking of their job as simply to fill in the gaps that those students seem to have,” Johnson says. “I want them to have the perspective that ‘My job and my privilege as a teacher is to learn about the linguistic repertoires that my students bring to the classroom and the literacy practices they have at home that I can build on.’”
Johnson has enjoyed getting to know other faculty members in the college and is excited to get to know the Iowa City community more.
“I’m just eager to get to know this community better, both Iowa City and the UI students here,” Johnson says.