Local Teacher Honored For 50 Years Of Teaching

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW)- A Topeka USD 501 teacher has been making impressions on her students for the past 50 years and Wednesday teachers and students took time to honor her.

Shirley Johannsen, who goes by "Ms. J", says she feels teaching is gift, but she never knew about the gift she was about to receive from her students and staff.

If you were ever a student at State Street Elementary, chances are you have heard of 5th grade teacher Shirley Johannsen.

"I like the kids. Everyday is different, you can't predict any day," says Ms. J.

"She has been known to be that teacher that kids just are amazed to have every year," says 4th grade teacher, Shelly Valdivia.

Wednesday marks Ms. J's 50th year of teaching at State Street Elementary School. Current State Street Elementary School teachers say they had Ms. J as their teacher years ago.

"Ms. Johannsen was my fifth grade teacher and she had a gift of inspiring us," says Lonna Latimer.

Just like any other day, Ms.J took her students to an assembly, but she never knew what was going to happen next.

"That's right 50 years, can you believe it?" students sang at the assembly.

Students and staff surprised Ms. J by singing a song in her honor and showing a video of her journey as a teacher.

"I was just shocked. It took me back a lot of memories," Ms. J. says.

She was awarded with a special plaque. Principal Sharp says, "Shirley Johannsen, we are naming the auditorium in your honor." Ms. J spent all summer cleaning and revamping the school's auditorium.

She received a letter from Mayor Larry Wolgast and a letter from KU basketball Coach Bill Self. "That was pretty awesome, I'm a KU fan," says Ms. J.

"She's a star! State Street star!" cheered students.

Ms. J says she hopes to teach at State Street Elementary School for many years to come.

"It's fun, I've always said as long as it was fun," says Ms. J.

Ms. J says she was overwhelmed and humbled. She says she is so proud of her students and fellow teachers for making State Street Elementary School what it is today.