Papillion-La Vista South High School will always be more than a job to Jeff Johnson — it’s the place he’s called home for years.
After 18 years at the school, Johnson is retiring from the school he helped open.
In 2002, Johnson started his journey at PLVS even before students and teachers filled it up.
When the school opened in 2003, Johnson was the activities director and held that position for 10 years.
Johnson said there are a lot of firsts that happen opening a new school — first football wins and state tournaments to premier band concerts. All of those moments, he said, were special.
“I can remember all those things,” he said. “It’s a unique situation when you’re at a high school that starts from scratch. There are a multitude of memories.”
Seven years ago Johnson stepped into the role of principal and has loved it ever since.
One of the best aspects of working in education, he said, is working alongside capable teachers and students.
Johnson said he will miss “watching them all grow and develop and just the excitement that goes on in high school and the hustle and bustle of things that happen in Papillion-La Vista South.”
He will also miss the excitement a new school year brings each August.
“That’s probably the most unique thing about education, every year starts new,” he said. “You gain more experience and you try different things and you go through the year and try again. It’s a clean slate.
“Kids mature and grow and teachers gain experience, so that’s the part where I think education keeps people really young because there are just hundreds of new ideas and energy levels are high.”
As an educator, one of his biggest goals was to help students reach their full potential.
“We try really hard to instill grit in our students to make sure they are prepared for whatever they do next,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he hopes students and teachers remember him for his kindness and caring nature.
“I wanted school to be a fun and safe place to be and I hope they recognize that and I hope we did our jobs in preparing them for what lies ahead. I wish them all the best,” he said.
Each year, Johnson said the school has continued to grow in the right direction and he is confident the school’s future is bright.
However, he is saddened by the fact he will not be able to say goodbye to those he’s built relationships.
“I’m not going to be able to stand up at graduation and see all of their faces and shake their hands,” he said. “Same with our teachers, I’m not going to be able to have that last faculty meeting face-to-face.”
As his career comes to an end, Johnson often jokes that it has come full circle due to the current pandemic.
“It’s ending how it started. We worked a whole year without teachers and students and I’m kind of going out the same way without teachers and students. Maybe it’s poetic justice,” he said.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the length Johnson was principal. He became principal seven years ago.