Life upheaval pays off for Teacher of the Year
13 years ago, Andrew Johnson gave up a potential NRL career at the Newcastle Knights in the name of teaching.
Coming through the Knights junior outfits, Johnson found himself in the reserve grade side in the years following.
Johnson reached a fork in the road soon after however when he was offered two opportunities – to either renew his Knights contract or head to Bourke for his first teaching post.
"So I went to Bourke," Johnson told NRL.com.
"I created a culture over four years there, I went into a school that's traditionally a soccer school and a soccer area.
"I made up the nickname of the Bourke Bulls and Wildcats. To see them represent the Wildcats jersey and sing the Wildcats victory song it was terrific. It was a good buzz."
After four years in Bourke, Johnson headed back to Newcastle where he remains almost a decade on.
The Head of PE at Callaghan College in Wallsend, Johnson doubles his duties by also being a Hunter Region League convener.
Last weekend, Johnson was on hand in Sydney to be awarded the NRL's National Teacher of the Year.
"I thought it was a gee up when I first received the call telling me I'd been nominated for a Teacher of the Year award," he said.
"I feel I'm very lucky that I'm one, a teacher in the Newcastle region, and two, that I also get to push rugby league programs, initiatives and competitions within the school.
"We run rugby league programs in Years 8, 9 and 10 in the classroom as the school has founded of a lot of competitions within the Hunter region," Johnson added.
"We provide opportunities like State of Origin, girl's rugby league days, father's day breakfasts - we do a lot in terms of rugby league – and the kids love it."
While Bourke and Wallsend are two completely different areas, similarities remain in terms of the diverse backgrounds of those who live there.
Now thanks to Johnson, they are bound by the same language – rugby league.
"Kids will tell you that they prefer to play school football rather than local league football. Whether that's playing their mates or just the success they have had at school, opportunities through rugby league are important," Johnson said.
"The award is a good recognition of what I do but more so the support they give me. I can have as many ideas as I want but without the student support, things don't happen.
"So I'm appreciative of the award but I'm also appreciative of the students and past students I've had under my guidance."