After teaching music at Morgan Middle School for 27 years, Dr. Gordon Johnson retired from the school district. In that time, Johnson estimates he has taught about 15,000 students.
But his career teaching music began almost five decades ago when he started teaching private piano lessons. A piano student himself while growing up in Ogden, Johnson fondly recalls his former piano teachers.
“I have always known since I was young that I was going to be a teacher,” Johnson said. “It is a profession where I can give back.”
Previous to teaching in Morgan, where he replaced retiring educator Dean Pace, Johnson taught at Uintah High School from 1974 to 1976. He also taught music for four years from 1979 to 1982 in Beaver, Utah. Johnson’s father had taught music in Beaver as well from 1929 to 1931.
Johnson has taught many Morgan students how to read music and play all kinds of instruments. For many of those students, it was their first exposure to music.
He is versatile enough to teach beginners on all instruments including woodwinds, brass and percussion. His instruments of choice are the piano and organ, although he played the French horn through school. In college, he accompanied the Weber State Singers. He has also performed in a ragtime group at Lagoon and a recorder quartet in the early 70s.
He began his college graduation at WSU as a music major, but later changed it to a German major. Soon after graduating from college, he taught choir. Just two years ago, he started learning how to play the guitar.
Admittedly, teaching middle school-aged students isn’t always easy. But he said he was always amazed at the creativity of his students. Over the years, he has been blessed to know many gifted students.
“I love trying to teach kids to learn and instill in them a love of learning,” he said. “I learn to love the kids and see them for who they are and not what they do. The kids have kept me going and made me stay lively.”
He has enjoyed being part of the faculty family at Morgan Middle School for almost three decades. In fact, that is what he said he is going to miss the most.
“I don’t know of a better faculty group, people that care more about the success of teachers,” Johnson said.
Johnson has also served for 25 years as an adjunct professor at Weber State University, where he has taught introduction to music, music history and, most recently, music of world cultures.
Johnson is no stranger to the influence music has had on culture, or vice versa. In 2000, Johnson responded to an advertisement to learn how to make and play Native American flutes at a three-day workshop.
He used the skills learned there to teach middle school students the art of making and playing Native American flutes. Johnson said such a class in a public school setting is very unique, perhaps the only one like it in the nation.
While not in a classroom setting anymore, Johnson doesn’t plan to stop his flute making hobby. Just a week into retirement, he is prepping a woodshop in his backyard to be his new flute making workshop, much like the one he had in his Morgan Middle School office.
He plans to continue teaching at WSU, where his own father once taught for 32 years and served as the music department chairman.
“It has been an interesting journey,” Johnson said. “Morgan has been a great place to teach.”