By Claire Theobald
When Jeff Johnson, now Alberta’s minister of education, had to look back and choose a teacher who helped make him the man he is today, it was no easy decision.
“I could probably point to a couple,” Johnson said. “It’s always tough to say one.”
Johnson said he was lucky to have had many high quality teachers throughout his school years, but it was the care and dedication shown to him by an educator Johnson doesn’t even remember having in the classroom who left the biggest impact.
“What I remember about him was how much he invested in us, the students,” Johnson said.
Johnson admits he wasn’t always the best student, so he turned to extra curricular activities. It was there that Johnson met William Bragg, his high school football coach at Camrose Composite High School.
Even though Johnson didn’t spend much time with Bragg in the classroom, the lessons he learned on the field have followed him throughout the years, and the values Bragg taught him have helped shape Johnson’s political career.
“I think you learn a lot of things through athletics,” Johnson said, “[like] team work, work ethic, integrity and resilience.”
Bragg, who retired two years ago after teaching for 34 years, says the extra effort he put into his time as a teacher was inspired by his own high school football coach, demonstrating how it is the little things that sometimes make the largest difference.
“Somebody always sets the pace and you sort of follow along,” Bragg said.
Bragg was known for going the extra mile for his team. At one point, Bragg said his wife even accused him of choosing football over his own family, but it was his love for the game and his passion for helping every student achieve success that made him a great coach, educator and mentor.
“As long as they have that feeling that that’s what they can do and they’re good at it, then that’s what you encourage,” Bragg says.
Even as a student, Johnson says he appreciated the extra care and attention Bragg gave to his students, and it was through Bragg that he learned to value giving back to the community, something he hopes to inspire in future generations.
“The way to teach kids to contribute to their community is to contribute ourselves,” Johnson said. “Show them that that’s important.”
Now that he is minister of education, Johnson says that his positive experiences in school have inspired him to try to create a positive learning environment for all of Alberta’s students, and that starts with excellence in teaching.
“The single biggest factor we can influence as a system is excellence in the classroom,” Johnson said, “that teaching quality.”
Johnson said if he saw Bragg today, he would just say “thank you.”
“You don’t always realize as a kid that those role models are helping form the next generation of people,” Johnson said.
As for Bragg, he stands as proof that a great teacher doesn’t just influence the students they teach, they inspire positive change for generations to come.