“I believe in science,” says Professor Lynn Johnson. “Together with my colleagues in Health and Human Performance, we were very careful and held our students accountable for staying safe.”
The experiential courses that Johnson teaches don’t lend themselves to being online, and working face to face with students was just one of many hurdles she overcame this past year during the COVID-19 pandemic. Johnson has been faculty speaker in what will undoubtedly go down as one of the most challenging in Plymouth State’s long history. She credits help from supportive colleagues for her ability to provide effective leadership.
Former speakers Lourdes Avilés, Scott Coykendall, and Anne Jung Matthews provided collective wisdom on governance and other issues. “Eric (Speaker-Elect Eric Hoffman) and I could talk to them and make a decision with some really quality advice,” says Johnson. “I don’t know how I wouldn’t gone through the year without knowing I had them as resources.” Johnson also credits Speaker-elect Eric Hoffman with helping her navigate the issues that came up this past year. Professor Liz Ahl also provided crucial assistance during faculty meetings.
Teaching can be stressful in itself, and faculty this year also had to deal with COVID, changes in how the University was functioning, and concerns regarding family and friends. “We were worrying and trying to care for students as well, and we knew that some were not handling things well,” says Johnson.
Students peer teaching a lesson on “Dimensions of Wellness” in Johnson’s Introduction to Physical Education and Health Education found that their peers’ social and emotional dimensions were strongly impacted, and Johnson also had to deal with those testing positive, quarantined, or in isolation. “Some had to make up lots of work and we had to figure out a way to make that happen,” says Johnson.
“This has been a really challenging year for faculty,” she continues. “I have a lot of respect for the faculty at Plymouth and we have weathered this storm better than anybody could expect with the help of really great staff working behind the scenes.’
Johnson represented faculty needs as Plymouth State’s COVID-19 Task Force put together a successful reopening plan for Fall 2020 and as a member of the Rapid Response Team that continually integrated new data and research into the University’s academic year operations.
“Lynn is so highly respected and volunteers in so many ways,” says Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Ann McClellan. “She attended the daily Rapid Response Team leadership calls for an entire year, worked on the Academic Reopening Task Force which met for three hours three days a week, and put in numerous additional hours writing policies, researching best practices, and attending extended cabinet meetings. She was an invaluable resource as we faced new challenges brought about by COVID and teaching in hybrid and remote modalities.”
“I had the privilege of working closely with Lynn during our time together these past 14 months,” says Vice President for Communications, Enrollment, and Student Life Marlin Collingwood. “Her keen interest in the well-being of our students, her respect and advocacy for her fellow faculty members, and her genuine warmth, good humor, and critical thinking made her a crucial part of these teams and one of the reasons we were to end the academic year successfully.”
“The great thing about our plan this year is that it truly included faculty, staff, and administration, and that it got us the information we needed to make really great decisions,” says Johnson. “I just have so much respect for the way we worked through this and I know how hard everyone has worked. The primary focus was on the safety of the faculty, students, and staff. Not everybody agreed with all of the decisions, but for those who were truly fearful for themselves or their family, there were accommodations made and it allowed people to work.”
Johnson is a strong believer in having students participate in a wide range of professional development and educational opportunities. “I think it’s really important to be involved,” she says. In typical years, her students are regular presenters at district and national conventions where Johnson’s expertise and contributions to the field are widely recognized. Johnson has won major awards from the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPRD) and the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE), is a fellow of the North American Society of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, Sport and Dance, and received PSU’s Excellence in Faculty Service Award in 2019.
“Lynn approaches all of her work with the students’ and the institution’s best interests at heart,” says McClellan. “She generously gives her time and energies to the betterment of the rest of our community.”
This fall, Johnson will be redirecting her energies while on sabbatical. Though not teaching, she will be working on an online professional resource, serving as a fellow on a PSU assessment team, and contributing to Health and Human Performance curricular changes. After a year in which her normally physically active life was curtailed by COVID, she looks forward to spending time on her boat and, come winter, skiing and snowshoeing again.