Matthew Ian Johnson, Special Education Math Teacher from UFT
* Special education math teacher
* PS 192, Manhattan
Matthew Ian Johnson, a special education math teacher for 25 years, turned Xavier Gonzalez’s life around simply by inviting the 5th-grader to “come and have lunch with me” when he was acting out. Today, Xavier is attending Yale University on a scholarship and is majoring in math.
Matthew gained his reputation as a “father figure and patriarch” at PS 192 in Manhattan because he never saw “a bad kid but instead saw a challenge and over the years turned many young lives around,” said colleague Caleb Gonzalez.
Matthew, 49, died on April 27.
The opportunity to spend time with Matthew, who began his career as a paraprofessional, changed everything for Xavier Gonzalez, the Ivy League student said. Matthew was “nonjudgmental and the first person to understand me,” said Xavier. He helped Xavier fit in and fought for him to be placed in general education classes when he graduated from the Harlem school. The rest is history.
Chapter Leader Claribel Riss described Matthew as a mentor to colleagues and a “larger-than-life father figure who made everlasting relationships with students and their families.” “No matter how small the gain a student made,” Riss said, “he made it big.” Matthew also connected with students and their families because of his perfect Spanish.
“Matthew taught me the importance of being a role model for students who had too few male role models in their lives,” Caleb Gonzalez said. “He always offered a shoulder to cry on and an open ear.”
Riss and Caleb Gonzalez agreed that Matthew’s cooking also won hearts. At the mention of a faculty celebration of any kind, Matthew always contributed enough of his shrimp scampi, ribs or lasagna for 100 people, and his offering was always the most popular one at the buffet table.
Matthew’s sisters, Kelly Johnson and Kerry Counts, who is also a teacher, said amen to that. They added that their brother was a great dancer, loved to go on cruises and was an “avid planner” of family vacations and celebrations.
In addition to his sisters, Matthew is survived by his father, Richard, and his brother, Geoffrey.
Condolences may be sent to:
921 Orchard St.
Peekskill, New York 10566