At 17 years old, Christine Johns sat in a university classroom surrounded by men and women who were devastated as Pittsburgh’s steel industry collapsed around them. Displaced steelworkers and stay-at-home mothers found themselves desperate for an education—and the work it would help secure.

Johns vividly remembers one woman turning to her and saying, “Young lady, make sure you get your college education and degree. Don’t be like me.

Here I am at 40 years old, sitting in a classroom, trying to figure out what I need to do so my family can survive. Take control of your future and your destiny.”

That message catapulted Johns onto a career path that took her from teacher to administrator and eventually to superintendent of Utica Community Schools, a suburban Detroit community in the heart of the automotive industry. In each role, she has focused on helping students become college and career ready so they can avoid the struggles of her displaced steelworker classmates years before.

As the superintendent for Michigan’s second largest school district—with approximately 27,000 students—Johns is intent on finding innovative ways to give students the skills and resources they need to thrive at each stage of their education and to participate fully in a global economy. Johns spoke with EdSurge about using augmented and virtual reality to help students become college and career ready, measuring the impact of new technologies, and the importance of professional development. Read more from…

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