Richfield Schools’ Johnston named ‘outstanding educator’

Centennial Elementary School teacher Sheila Johnston was named the recipient of the WEM Foundation’s Outstanding Educator Award Thursday, April 10.

Johnston is one of six educators in the state being honored by WEM for outstanding accomplishments and contributions to student learning. Johnston received the award under WEM’s designation as an academic challenge coach. A $15,000 prize is accompanying the award.

Johnston has been teaching and coaching for 24 years. She currently implements gifted education programs for students in grades 1-5 and coaches Future Problem Solving and FIRST LEGO League.

“Sheila is passionate about educating the whole student, and this is one of the main reasons she is involved in the Future Problem Solving Program and competitions,” Centennial Principal LeAnn Wise said in a press release. “Her work with Future Problem Solving has proven to be particularly important for our English Language Learners who have grown tremendously through their work with Sheila.”

Johnston brought Future Problem Solving to the Richfield Public Schools eight years ago, and has overseen its growth into all of the district’s elementary schools, as well as at the middle school and high school. The idea behind Future Problem Solving is to teach students how to think, not what to think. This is accomplished by teaching critical and creative thinking skills, problem solving, and decision-making skills via a six step process. One former student testified to the difference that the program and Johnston have made.

“I believe that a large part of me would be cooped-up and lost inside if it weren’t for Mrs. Johnston and her willingness to notice me, acknowledge me and commit time to inspire me to be my best through her work with Future Problem Solving,” the student said in a press release.

In addition to her teaching and coaching, Johnston has donated hours as a volunteer evaluator, Regional Future Problem Solving Bowl director, Future Problem Solving Board of Directors member and a mentor to new coaches.

Educators are first nominated for the WEM Outstanding Educator Awards Program by students, parents, colleagues or community members.

The foundation is part of the Synergy & Leadership Exchange, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering collaboration to advance the development of ethical citizens. The organization provides educational resources while celebrating achievement and best practices in Minnesota schools, businesses and communities.

For more information on the WEM Outstanding Educator Awards Program and Synergy & Leadership Exchange, visit

–Compiled by Andrew Wig