July 22, 2018

An amazing year for the wrestling team -

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

My Experience at the Women’s March -

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

El Regreso Del Racismo -

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Parkland Shooting -

Friday, March 2, 2018

California Flu Crisis -

Friday, March 2, 2018

‘Rapping’ Up the Grammy Awards -

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

¿Cuál Será el Futuro de DACA? -

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Marcus Peters traded to the Rams -

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

2018 Upcoming Movies -

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Instagram-Worthy Desserts of San Francisco -

Monday, February 26, 2018

Upcoming Season of Baseball -

Monday, February 26, 2018

Black History Month -

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Black Panther Review -

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Destructive Culture of Social Media -

Friday, February 23, 2018

Badminton season launches into action! -

Friday, February 23, 2018

LimeBike Takes Over! -

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

All Star Weekend Highlights -

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Chinese New Year Brought to SMHS -

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

San Mateo Volleyball Season Kicks Off -

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Van Jones Show:Jay-Z -

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Nuance of Nels

With the voice of Tom Hanks, the humor of Mark Twain, and the knowledge of Encyclopedia Britannica, it’s no coincidence that Nels Johnson has had a successful twenty-two year tenure here at San Mateo. Officially, he’s an English teacher. Unofficially, he’s a college advisor, a foreign rock aficionado, an enemy of birds, a high-end coffee consumer, and above all else, a mentor in sarcasm.

On any given day, you can witness Mr. Johnson in his natural habitat – strolling down the B-building, almost late to class, sporting a pair of his signature spectacles. Having taught each and every section of English, Mr. Johnson has seen first hand the remarkable diversity of San Mateo.

“There are kids in your class with perfect SAT scores, there are accomplished performers, there are brand-new immigrants. That’s what’s cool, and sometimes challenging, about San Mateo.”

No matter their academic stratum, Mr. Johnson always find ways to individualistically connect with the student.  Whether it’s discussing the merits of Colombian java, offering counsel on the UC application, or speculating on the point spread of the next college football game, he makes it a point to know you as a person in addition to as a student.

Despite his easy-going personality, Mr. Johnson’s curriculum remains formidable. Challenging students to look beyond the plot, he’s incredible at teaching the skill of nuance, or subtle complexities in the text. “Why is Hero named Hero? Why did Shakespeare choose illustrate over paint?  What’s the connotation of concrete as opposed to pavement?” These shades of language are critical to Mr. Johnson’s teaching philosophy – a philosophy that values the artistry of the literary craft.

Having two recently-graduated kids of his own, Mr. Johnson understands the stress of the high school student, and attempts to ease his challenging curriculum into more approachable waters. To understand the notion of the tragic hero, for example, he gives a sample presentation on the life of Eazy-E. To understand the use of clowns in Shakespeare, he plays a clip from Parks and Recreation. To understand the concept of hubris, he brings up Kanye. He’s not trying to be hip, either – he is hip. Senior Natalia Diaz adds that “he’s like the intellectual dad that’s actually really goofy and sweet.”

If you’re lucky enough to be taught by the iconic Mr. Johnson, you’ll not only receive a world-class education, but a smile on your face, and that’s why San Mateo is lucky to have him.

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