In the eight years since North Gwinnett Middle School first opened, there has only been one teacher who has climbed Kilimanjaro, visited six different continents, and has a virtual mini-museum in his classroom. However, to Scott Johnson, commonly referred to as “Mr. J”, from the wooden cane from Oman to the African sculptures and world maps on the back wall, it is the assorted souvenirs and the unique experiences of traveling around the world, as well as “just being another one of the 7th graders in the room”, that have been vital in teaching social studies and world geography for the past 22 years. Yet in addition to teaching, he has taken school groups to Europe during spring break for the past 18 years, and has been a Quiz Bowl coach for the past 10 years.
Quiz Bowl refers to the multiple academic trivia competitions where teams with 4-5 members compete against teams from other schools. The Quiz Bowl program at North Gwinnett Middle School, which is headed by Mr. Johnson and two other coaches, Mr. Scott Kim and Dr. Kelley Lorenz, consists of about 50 members divided into A and B teams based on skill level and into one team for sixth-graders. Though the NGMS Quiz Bowl team has generally performed well in tournaments over all, the A team in particular has competed at the national level for the past five years, consistently placed within the top 10 teams at state level tournaments and in the first few months of the 2017-2018 school year alone, has placed 2nd out of 30-40 teams at the Paideia Pi Fight and Chamblee Bulldog Brain Bowl tournaments, and 3rd out of 24 teams at the GATA (Georgia Academic Team Association) Fall Tournament at Brookwood High School. In May, North Gwinnett will be sending teams to Chicago to compete in the Middle School National Championship Tournament.
Having been in Quiz Bowl during middle school, I can personally testify that Mr. Johnson is singlehandedly responsible for the success of the Quiz Bowl teams at North Gwinnett, whether through the weekly practices, the coaching, or his enthusiasm for teaching and coaching. When he is not doing any of those things, however, Mr. Johnson is travelling all over Europe, Africa, Asia, or the Americas. As part of the annual middle school trip over spring break, he will be visiting Italy, but in the future, he intends to make a trip through Myanmar, northern Thailand, and Laos as soon as Myanmar becomes more accessible to the West and as part of his retirement in the next decade, he is planning to teach abroad in the United Arab Emirates, preferably Dubai. But in the meantime, he’s continuing to have joy in teaching 7th grade, coaching Quiz Bowl, and sharing his enthusiasm and passion for travelling and learning about the world with his students.