Westfield teacher receives Lilly Endowment grant


By Chris Bavender

Maple Glen Elementary School first-grade teacher Mitzi Johnson was the recipient of a 2022 Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity Fellowship Program. This is the third year Johnson, a first-time recipient, has applied.

“It just proves the value of persistence. Each time I have written it, I thought that it would be great if I got it, and if not, I would try again next year, “Johnson said. “With each year, I have gained more insight, knowledge and practice in mindfulness and edited the grant to adjust to the current reality. I was thrilled to know that I received the funding this year.”

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Johnson’s topic for the grant was “The 3 R’s: Refresh, Rejuvenate and Renew-Continuing the Learning Journey.” She will receive a grant of $11,492 that will be used to continue her focus on “mindfulness, loving kindness and compassion for myself, my students and my community.”

“It entails a 10-day loving kindness silent retreat held at Spirit Rock Insight Meditation Center near San Francisco, Calif., incorporating contemplation, meditation, yoga and breathing techniques,” she said. “It also includes enrollment in a Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program, supporting an in-depth study of teaching self-awareness and compassion-based practices.”

Committing to the extensive course, Johnson said, will fill her with renewed energy, allowing her to “fully surrender into the role of student and to dive deeper into the knowledge and wisdom of mindfulness and meditation.”

“I want to be able to navigate through tough times with a calm, positive perspective and to learn mindfulness strategies to use daily in order to manage anxiety and stress, to keep focused attention and to regulate difficult emotions,” she said. “Learning how to share these practices and teachings with others will deepen my own understanding and impact my career as an educator because I will not only be helping myself, but will be able to support my students, their parents, other teachers and the community in healing and personal growth.”

Johnson applied in October 2021 and found out at the end of February her application was chosen.

“It came at the perfect time. I’ve been interested in learning about and incorporating mindfulness into my classroom for many years,” she said. “I have taken several online courses and have read many books to understand why mindfulness practices are so important for children, including improved self-control and self-regulation skills, strengthened resiliency and decision-making, increased academic success and engagement in enthusiasm for learning.”

The fellowship is one of the endowment’s longes- standing programs and started as a way to help Indiana elementary and secondary educators renew their commitment to teaching. This is the 35th round of the fellowship program. A total of 103 grants were awarded this year.