Former Mountain Vista High School Principal Steve Johnson passed away March 27 — Easter Sunday.
Prior to getting into education, Johnson was a pastor for 10 years. He was a student teacher at Highlands Ranch High School before becoming a social studies teacher there. Johnson was then hired in 2002 to become to be the second principal at MVHS and the first principal to graduate students.
“He was first and foremost the principal who created a culture of school acceptance and connectedness and a feeling of family and belonging,” Spanish teacher Linda Hammerton-Morris said.
He had a rule that before every summer break, each teacher would come in and talk to him about their life, work and summer plans.
Johnson was loved and respected by all he impacted. Although at first he may have come off as intimidating, once someone got to know him his huge heart and ability to comfort people was quite apparent.
“When staff members were struggling and going through certain things like having kids or losing a parent, he had a huge heart and was very compassionate and there for them,” media specialist Julie Jacobs said.
With his vast appreciation for all aspects of a student’s life, he created an atmosphere of acceptance within the school. When interviewing candidates for the principal position, one of the things that the committee was looking for was someone who was well rounded and enjoyed all parts of a school, including the arts, sports and academics.
“I was on the committee that hired him and I think that one of the things that stuck out the most is his ability to be sort of a Renaissance Man because he was very musical, he was highly intelligent and he loved sports,” Jacobs said. “There was a little bit of the arts, a little bit of history, a little bit of everything.”
Johnson not only impacted the students he came into contact with, but also the teachers he hired and even the ones who came after he left Vista. Just over half of the teachers and administrators at Vista currently were hired by Johnson, continuing his legacy of excellence even after he left the school.
“The legacy you leave on a building is the people you hire and the people who have created the culture of the building,” social studies teacher James Flanigan said of Johnson.
Even after he left Vista his connections with the teachers never ended with many of the teachers and administrators keeping in contact with him. Once he got sick, teachers were able to visit during open house events and check in whenever needed.
“Even when he couldn’t speak very loudly he was always expressing his love he had for the people he worked with — whoever you were,” Jacobs said.
Johnson was diagnosed with ALS in 2015. It took over his body quicker than expected. In his last few weeks, Johnson was able to see his son get married.
“He is very religious, so to die on Easter is pretty significant as well,” Jacobs said.
Johnson was a major member in the community — he positively impacted students, teachers and all he came into contact. His huge heart and intelligence will be missed by everyone.
“Mr. Johnson had a statue of The Thinker on his desk and that absolutely captured the kind of man that he was,” Hammerton-Morris said.
Steve Johnson’s memorial service will be Thursday, March 31 at 4 p.m. at the Centennial Covenant Church, 401 W. Mineral Ave.