Saluda teacher one of 2 local finalists for state Teacher of the - - Columbia, South Carolina

Saluda teacher one of 2 local finalists for SC Teacher of the Year

Paul Johnson in class Paul Johnson in class

If Paul Johnson looks at home in the halls of Saluda High School, it's because he's been doing this pretty much his whole life.

"I had kind of a chaotic home life, so when I went off to school I loved everything about it," said Johnson. "The structure. The order. When it came time to go home I didn't want to leave, but I knew I'd get to go home and teach my little brother everything I learned."

Johnson would tell you he still teaches his family. In fact, part of his message is that we're all teachers, all learning from each other.

Johnson, though, seems to be better at it. He is one of two educators from the Midlands who are finalists for South Carolina Teacher of the Year.

"We do some really neat projects," said Lauren Nordin, who is one of Johnson's biggest fans and best students. That's not easy, by the way.

"He'll take off points if you draw a line and don't use a ruler," said Nordin. "I've gone to him time and time again to say, 'Mr. Johnson, does this really matter?'"

And Nordin said she still likes him.

"We have rounds over points," she said. "But I know he does it because he wants us to succeed."

Nordin will study Biology at Clemson because of Johnson's classes.

As much as he likes gardening, hiking and watching the world grow around him, the students provide Johnson with a whole different level of satisfaction.

"A couple of days ago a student almost came out of her seat because she finally got the answer and it's good to see that," said Johnson.

If Johnson wins, he'll get $25,000 and the use of a BMW for a year, so that he can tour the state as an ambassador for education.

"That's the great thing you get to tell about some of the great things going on and get to share with people what teaching is all about," he said.

Johnson will find out if he's the big winner when they announce the Teacher of the Year on May 1st.

Trevor Ivey from Alice Drive Middle School in Sumter is the other finalist from the Midlands.  WIS will profile Ivey in a few weeks.

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