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The Record, Johnnie Bennie Radio
English Teacher in the Minnetonka School District
What was your favorite English class? Why?
This is a difficult one! I loved all of my English classes, so I’ll have to go with one that’s coming
to mind right now. Professor Matt Harkins taught a course on the essay. We were allowed to
write about just about anything we wanted to as long as we could successfully connect it to the
prompt. This allowed me to reflect on what was happening in my life in the present moment. It
opened my eyes to everything an essay could be, shattering my expectations of form, subject,
What professor left a lasting impact on you?
Professor Jessica Harkins was the first to pull me in the English major direction. She became my
advisor and then encouraged me to get a Masters in Creative Writing after college, which I
promptly did. Then a few years later, we bumped into each other at a writing conference while I
was working for a publishing company, and she asked if I was a teacher yet. I hadn’t really
considered it, but that was the push I needed to pursue my true passion. Three years after that
conversation (two years dedicated to going back to school for a Secondary Teaching License) I
started my first day of teaching.
What class was most beneficial to your future career?
This is really hard to answer! Every english class I had both shaped who I am today and how I
teach. I can distinctly recall teaching methods from each of my professors that I employ today in
my classroom, even though I didn’t know I was going to be a teacher. Each professor had certain
mannerisms of speech and movement that I can feel myself replicating at times. I actually don’t
recall the specific class title, but it was an advanced English course taught by Professor Opitz. I
wrote a lot of essays about music that I liked. That really opened my eyes to how much “student
interest” plays a part in their success. If they’re invested in the topic, the end product shows it.
How did your English education at CSBSJU help you land your first or future jobs?
My English education at CSBSJU started the fire of passion I have for reading and writing. My
time there is responsible for everything that has happened since, and I’m eternally grateful for it.
Why did you choose the profession that you chose?
When I finished my Masters in Creative Writing, my choice was simple at the time--pursue a
career in book publishing. I worked in that industry for close to three years before realizing, with
the help of a former CSB-SJU professor, that my true calling was teaching. Teaching allows me
to share my passion for reading and writing and pass that on to hundreds of young learners every
year. Sometimes it can feel thankless, but I know I’m planting seeds that will grow later in these
kids’ lives, and I’m proud of that.
What is one piece of advice that you have for current students?
I think part of me expected the post-graduate world to give me assignments and due dates just as
I had while in school. This, of course, is not the case. You choose your own assignments and due
dates. You choose your own direction in life. My mistake was not fully believing I was capable
of doing so right out of college, but I could. And you can, too. Go for it. Whatever it is.
I'm in my third year of teaching English at Minnetonka High School. I teach English 9, English 11, and IB Literature & Performance. It's safe to say I've found my passion/life's work here. I also met my fiancé here (also an English teacher!) Needless to say, my English degree from CSB/SJU has been put to good use! My favorite part of my job is passing on the passion for reading and writing to my students that was first cultivated at CSB/SJU. I have to mention Professor Jessica Harkins specifically. She convinced me to switch my major to English and encouraged me to go on to get my Master's degree in Creative Writing. Then, several years later, we bumped into each other at a Publishing conference, and she asked if I was a high school teacher yet. I hadn't really considered it, but a year later I began to look into it and here I am!