When Imani Johnson '24 was a child, nothing was more fun than playing school—as long as she got to be the teacher.
Her baby sister, stuck in her highchair, endured countless arithmetic lessons as a very young Imani’s desire to one day be teaching in a real classroom grew stronger and stronger.
Today, Johnson, a sophomore in Longwood’s education and teaching program, is making progress toward fulfilling that childhood dream, though she’s decided her ultimate ambition, after gaining classroom experience, is to have her nameplate on a different room: the principal’s office.
Thanks to Longwood’s Work Shadow Program, Johnson recently got some boots-on-the-ground advice about what being a principal is really like—and how to get there—while spending a day with Longwood alumna Kathy Moore Verhappen ’90, principal of Granby Elementary School in Norfolk for the last eight years.
I wanted to see how a school functions behind the scenes. I went through the entire school. I saw every single classroom and met every single teacher. It was an incredible experience.Imani Johnson ’24 Tweet This
“I wanted to see how a school functions behind the scenes,” said Johnson, whose home is in Suffolk about 30 minutes from Granby. And she wasn’t disappointed. “I went through the entire school. I saw every single classroom and met every single teacher. It was an incredible experience.”
That’s exactly the reaction Verhappen was hoping for. Her day with Johnson was the fourth time she’s participated in the Work Shadow Program run by Alumni and Career Services. Why does she do it?
“I believe coaching and mentoring is the core of what we do as educators. That’s what we’re supposed to do—pass the torch, right?” said Verhappen, who has spent her entire career as an educator. And if she happens to meet an aspiring teacher she can eventually recruit to her school, that’s the icing.
For Johnson, the most memorable part of the day was when Verhappen introduced her to a class of fourth-graders.
“The kids were flooding us with love. It was just crazy. One even came up and gave me a hug,” Johnson said. “To see them embrace her like that, and even me, I thought it was awesome.”