A poet by night

English teacher publishes her poetry


Cuyler Dunn

Sharing her work, teacher Melissa Johnson holds a poetry reading at Watson Park in association with The Raven Book Store. “I was nervous,” Johnson said. “Even though I have done a lot of readings, I am nervous every time,” Johnson said.

By Case Nicholson, Reporter

When Melissa Johnson first began writing poetry, she envisioned sharing it with the world. 

Among her published works is a new collection, “Green.” Senior Ava Tunge read “Green” before having Johnson as a teacher and named it one of her favorite poetry collections.

“Ms. Johnson has honestly been one of the most impactful teachers in my high school experience,” Tunge said. “She goes above and beyond to make all students comfortable in her classroom.” 

Poetry makes up a significant portion of the English curriculum at LHS, making it an asset for her to be so experienced with it. 

“I belong to some Facebook groups for teachers and the most common thing I see for teachers is they don’t know how to teach poetry because they do not know much about poetry themselves,” Johnson said. “So I never really feel like that because it is something I have studied, and I feel like it is a strength of mine.” 

Poetry is often viewed as complex, but Johnson believes if her students see her work, they will begin to view it as more accessible.

“Often at the start of a poetry unit I usually do share at least one of my poems,” Johnson said. “I’m always worried that that will look tacky, but then I think it will show the relevance of it, and it’s something your teacher does.”

For Rachel Schmaus, Johnson’s experiences are helpful as she tries to get her own work published.

“She’s been really helpful in both motivating me to work and editing and all of that so it’s really nice to have someone who’s actively working in the professional field,” Schmaus said. 

While some people face burn out, this is not the case for Johnson.

“Sometimes I am really tired at the end of the day, and the last thing I want to do is write my own stuff after teaching it and reading other people’s work,” Johnson said. 

Even when she isn’t writing, Johnson said teaching the subject keeps her connected to the craft. 

“I feel like it keeps me in that world even when I am in a dry spell because I am always thinking about poetry,” she said.