2016-08-01 / Spotlight

Educate the State

Curtis Johnson | Principal, State College Area High School
Maggie Anderson

Penn State basketball fans may remember Curtis Johnson — he played for Bruce Parkhill in Rec Hall from ’87 to ’91 during what he calls “the good old days.” But now he’s looking forward to the new high school (the construction is on time, he assures us) and embracing his role as principal. “It’s important to me to make sure that students are prepared for life out of high school, whether it’s a career or post-secondary school or trade school,” he says. “It’s just not enough to take the courses and expect life to be good. You have to have a purpose, you have to be driven, hopefully by your passion.” Before back to school on Aug. 29, we asked Johnson what, besides his wife, Susan Bardo, and daughter, Neve, 7, he’s passionate about.

State High math teacher Bill Harrington introduced Johnson to some of the finer points of Central PA culture. “He would take me fishing in a canoe, and he would hog all the good spots, so we switched to kayaks so we could do our own thing. It has grown into an addiction.”

“We play Dungeons and Dragons. As a child I played all the time. Then I came up here and I found some of the teachers and some people around the neighborhood also play. We all have kids now so we don’t play as much, but we’re always looking for new people to play with.”

As an elected member of the Pennsylvania Principals Association board, Johnson was encouraged to apply for a national role as the at-large assistant principal. “I’ve been doing that for the last five years. It was a great experience. I got to go all over the country and meet other principals from places like Alabama and Montana.”

Johnson’s book and movie collections are large and filled with a lot of fantasy and science fiction. When asked to pick some favorites, he said, “Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.”

“I ended up getting a few scholarship offers to different schools, but my mom wanted me to come to Penn State, so I came to Penn State. We went from a losing record in my freshman year to my last year we went to the NCAA tournament. I play every once in a while with the high school intramural team. They want to play us old folks,” Johnson laughs.

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