After earning the first of the two UI diplomas that hang on his wall, Justin Bozarth still wasn’t quite sure how we wanted to make a living.
But it didn’t take long for the valedictorian of Tuscola High’s Class of ’04 to realize that selling pharmaceuticals wasn’t his career calling.
“The flexibility of that job allowed me the opportunity to start coaching girls’ basketball at Tuscola High School, my alma mater,” Bozarth says. “I really found a passion of being back in the school building and teaching, mentoring and coaching high school-aged kids.
“Thus, I decided to go back to the U of I and work toward a master’s in social work with the hopes of becoming a school counselor.”
That’s when he met Jill Johnson, one of his grad school professors in the School of Social Work.
“I had Jill for numerous classes during my time. Her classes always focused on the school side of social work. Her husband was also the principal at Centennial High School so she knew what a school was like from a counseling and administration side.
“Her teaching ability and enthusiasm for her profession fueled all of her students. She challenged us to think outside the box, to utilize every resource available to us in our communities and to remember that at times, we may be one of the few positive influences in a child’s life.
“Her energy, optimism and dedication to her teaching profession inspired me — and still does to this day.
“I, like so many others, have numerous fond memories of my time at the U of I in both undergraduate and graduate school. However, Jill Johnson and her classes stand at the top of my memories."