Humans of JHS: The Griffin Effect


Mr. Griffin helping student during class.

Sydney Hodges, Staff Writer

Besides being a sports fan of the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Green Bay Packers, Thomas Griffin has been teaching for 15 years. Griffin is an 8th grade football coach and teaches World Studies, AP History, and Government at Johnston. Griffin chose this path because of his past teachers and coaches that made a great impact on him. Now, he hopes to do the same for his students.

Griffin wasn’t always a teacher. Before he started teaching, he was a waiter, worked landscaping, parked cars and wheelchairs at the University of Iowa Hospital, and worked at youth programs for Ankeny and Urbandale. Once Griffin started teaching, he realized that this was the career path for him.

“Teaching is the best and most rewarding career I can imagine,” Griffin said.

There are many things Griffin admires about teaching, but he especially loves when his students are engaged in their learning.

“I love getting the chance to be curious and dive into questions that students might have,” Griffin said.

From the beginning to the end of the year, Griffin’s main goal for his students is to see them improve.

“I get to work with students every day. Seeing their learning and growth makes this job worth doing,” Griffin said.

Students and staff agree that Griffin is a fun and easy going person to be around. He makes class fun even when it’s challenging. Griffin is inspired by his past teachers and coaches that made an impact on him. There were many that stood out to him, but one of which was his 8th grade English teacher Mr. Naughton.

“He was funny and encouraging. I remember him having high expectations and making school fun,” Griffin said.

All of his amazing teachers left Griffin inspired to be an amazing teacher and person.

“Each brought something different to the classroom to make it memorable.” Griffin said.

This is something that Griffin tries to do in his own classroom. Many of his student’s remember his funny and crazy stories, especially the one about when his foot got run over by a school bus. 

“Long story short, I was running around as the bus was pulling up to our stop one morning and slipped,” Griffin said. “The craziest thing is that the bus driver that day was in training, and it was her first day driving a bus.” Griffin explained. 

Annmarie Scott had Griffin as her teacher for AP World History last year. She explained how he made his classroom a fun environment for his students.

“In his class last year we had to write a DBQ (document based question) about whether or not a hotdog was a sandwich and had to debate it for the whole class.” Scott said.

Scott agrees that Griffin has a good balance of fun and learning. 

 “…he is really good at being able to mix together having fun and learning valuable knowledge or skills,” Scott said. 

He uses these techniques in his classroom to intrigue his students in lessons and contribute to the class discussion in their own way.

“Each student brings their own unique perspective, ideas, and personality and that is what makes this an awesome school.” Griffin said.

Griffin wants to leave an impact on his students by replicating how his past teachers and coaches left an impact on him.

“I hope that my belief in my students and my encouragement to my students and players can be a little reminder to them … that they can overcome whatever challenges they face.” Griffin said.

Griffin hopes that what students take away from his class is greater than the content in a lesson.

“I know that most students won’t remember most of the content…from class or the wins and losses from our team, but I hope that all of my students know that they had teachers that cared about them as people, wanted them to be successful,… and wanted to support them through their struggles.” Griffin said.

Scott is proof that Griffin is succeeding in his goal of letting students know that he cares and supports them.

“…it’s very obvious he cares about his students a lot and he wants what’s best for them.” Scott said.