Author Of Autobiography That Inspired ‘Dangerous Minds’ Speaks At JCC

Students and faculty of Jamestown Community College were joined by the public for a presentation by the author that inspired the movie “Dangerous Minds” on Tuesday evening.

LouAnne Johnson, a native of Youngsville, Pa., and author of the book “My Posse Don’t Do Homework,” the autobiography that inspired the popular 1995 film “Dangerous Minds,” was recently a keynote speaker at Jamestown Community College.

In addition to walking guests through a number of key moments in her life, Johnson’s presentation included two major aspects, “The Power of Choice,” and “The Posse Update.” The power of choice focused on the idea in order for students to be successful, it is really important that they think they can be successful.

“When students believe success is possible they will try,” said Johnson.

She also spoke about the concept that changing the semantics of the phrases “I have to …” and “I can’t …” to “I choose to …” and “I don’t want to …” students may realize that the only things they really have to do to live is: eat, sleep, breathe, drink water and go to the bathroom; and that everything else is optional.

“You have to choose and not say I have to because saying you have to is saying you’re a victim,” said Johnson. “You tell the world you’re a victim and the world treats you the way you tell it to.”

“The Posse Update” aspect of Johnson’s presentation focused on the current lives and success stories of the real people that were portrayed in the film “Dangerous Minds.”

The event was organized by JCC faculty including Kayla Crosby, residence director, Kim Irland, campus life director and Renee Funke, teacher and club adviser. According to Crosby, she was drawn to invite Johnson to JCC because her mother met the author at a teacher’s in-service day. Because Crosby was studying education at St. Bonaventure at the time, her mother told her that she had to hear Johnson’s presentation because of how awesome it was. So, when Crosby graduated and got a job at JCC, she decided it would be a good opportunity to make the author available to the students at her new school.

“We all decided it would be awesome to have someone local who has had a movie made about their life come to be a keynote speaker,” said Crosby. “She talked to a couple education classes today, met with my student success seminar and had lunches and dinners with students so they could sit down and have actual intimate conversations. She’s really been a treat for everyone. It’s great to talk to her and to hear about her life experiences. Her wisdom is just outstanding.”

According to Johnson, the reason she believes it is important to speak in public is because she believes that, “You choose the kind of person you are.”

“I had so many people when I was young that thought I was just a smart-(aleck) when I was angry because of them not accepting who I was,” said Johnson. “If you’re going to be a teacher, rather than try to control people, try to teach them how to control themselves. And, also how to use their power in a positive way instead of trying to make them give it to you.”

During her presentation Johnson recommended the book entitled “How The Brain Learns,” by David A. Sousa, to those aspiring to be teachers or who are currently in the education field. She recommended the book because she recalled a point in her life when her focus of teaching stopped being on a students’ grade, and rather upon their brain.

“I believe more in the power of the human heart than any standardized testing,” said Johnson.

Today at noon, in the student union, Johnson will do a dramatic reading from her book “Muchacho” as well as a signing.

“I watched the ‘Dangerous Minds’ movie when I was growing up and I was really inspired by the real LouAnne Johnson on television as well as from reading her online blog,” said Crosby. “I think it’s great to continue learning and she has excellent advice to share with anyone who is interested.”

Those who missed Johnson’s presentation can visit her blog that features links to resources for teachers, students and parents at www.louannejohnson.com. For more information call 338-1000 or visit www.sunyjcc.edu.