“Teaching has never been just a job for me; it is who I am.”
Those are the words of Professor Andrea Johnson of Letcher County, who is retiring from Hazard Community and Technical College after 28 years of teaching nursing.
“It will be difficult to adjust to the slower pace when I retire, but it has been my plan for years to spend quality time with my son and husband while we are still able to enjoy it. This is a great place to work and a great group of people. I am now and will always be proud to say that I worked for HCTC,” she said.
When Mrs. Johnson was fresh out of nursing school in 1984, she was hired at UK medical center in their neonatal intensive care unit. She loved it there but was homesick for her native Letcher County. She left Lexington in August 1987 and started working for vocational education teaching practical nursing in Whitesburg.
The program was an extension of the Hazard Practical Nursing Program. She stayed with vocational education as it transitioned through all of its different names until the merger with the community college system.
Her good working relationship with Whitesburg ARH prompted her to continue having her students have clinical experiences at that hospital throughout her tenure.
“They have been so good to us and it is a good learning experience for the students to see the level of care their nurses provide,” she said.
Students have the highest praise for Mrs. Johnson in the classroom. As one student put it, “She always goes above and beyond to help her students, I love her way of teaching, very effective, and she is very intelligent.”
Another student thanked her for being an excellent teacher. Yet another student wrote, “She is a great teacher; she will help with any problem Thanks for all you have done to help educate me.”
Mrs. Johnson noted, “I fell in love with teaching. It was not easy in the beginning and it never gets easy. It is very hard to teach nursing at any level, and many people come into this profession not realizing how hard it is. There is a lot of pressure to get students prepared to be safe in a short time and successfully pass their NCLEX licensure exam,” she noted.
“I always consider my accomplishments to be student success. They pass their boards, get a good job and become a great nurse. It changes their life. I have seen so many success stories in my 28 years and it makes me so proud to have been a part of those,” she said.
In her career, she has seen a lot of changes. “The college and its programs have to change and adapt to survive. The college is still here and holding its own in a time when the economy is not thriving; we are doing something right. I feel we have had good leaders that kept the college on track financially, so we could concentrate on teaching and advising,” she noted.
“Nursing is a mentally and physically hard job if done right. You have to want to do for others,” is a message that Mrs. Johnson sends to her students. “I tell them you will always be okay if you care for all your patients with the same respect and compassion you would want for your mother/ father/child.”
Mrs. Johnson has a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Education from Eastern Kentucky University. She is a 1978 graduate of Jenkins Independent High School.
Mrs. Johnson is married to Herman Johnson, her high school sweetheart. The couple lives in McRoberts with their son, Matthew whom she calls “the light of our life.” Matthew is 36 years old and has been profoundly handicapped since birth.
“I can’t wait to get to spend more quality time with my family,” she said, including the newest editions, a cat and a dog that they rescued as babies. “How can you turn them away when they show up hungry, wet and scared on your porch?” she asked.
Mrs. Johnson loves being outside, doing anything, and hopes she can enjoy more hobbies and interests in her retirement.
“I’m looking forward to spending more quality time with my son and husband and throwing away my alarm clock,” she said with a smile.