“A dream come true” for Alaska’s commissioner of education

Dr. Michael Johnson speaks to educators in Alaska (photo provided)

“A dream come true” for Alaska’s commissioner of education

“A dream come true” for Alaska’s commissioner of education

Dr. Michael Johnson speaks to educators in Alaska (photo provided)

July 12, 2022

CIU alumnus Dr. Michael Johnson named associate dean of College of Education

By Bob Holmes

The new associate dean of Columbia International University’s College of Education will bring a wealth of experience to impart to students at his alma mater after serving as Alaska’s commissioner of education for the last six years.

Over a 30-year career, Dr. Michael Johnson has also served in Alaska as a superintendent, school principal, district curriculum and staff development director, elementary teacher, and special education program assistant. He holds both a bachelor’s degree in Bible (’94) and a master’s degree in elementary education (’97) from CIU, and a doctorate of philosophy in education and intercultural studies from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Johnson, who grew up in Georgia, calls his return to CIU, “a dream come true.”

“After 30 years in Alaska, I am returning to CIU grateful for the past, the present, and this new chapter in our lives,” said Johnson who is married with two teenagers. “I wanted to come to CIU and equip a new generation to go out and serve Christ both in public school and private school systems.”


As Johnson returns to the CIU College of Education as an administrator and professor three decades after graduating, he says that being a teacher in schools across the nation is a lot harder than it used to be because increasingly, educators are not just confronting the need for knowledge.

“Every issue that we are facing as a society and a country, walks in the classroom door every single day,” Johnson said. “Fundamentally, that begins with the breakdown of the family, the impact of substance abuse, the impact of violence, the impact of a struggling economy, the impact of broken communities, materialism, the conflict that happens in government — the impact of that walks through the classroom door with kids every day.”

So, how to respond? Johnson points to CIU’s mission to “educate people from a biblical worldview.”

“More than anything, we need people filled with the Spirit of Christ working in our schools,” Johnson said. “The only way to face it is to think biblically. Because we only make the problem worse when we adopt the thinking or philosophies of the broader culture in society and not a biblical worldview.”

He admits that some challenges seem insurmountable, but are “not beyond the reach of Scripture.”

“If we begin there, and realize our most important strategy is to think biblically, to be full of faith, then I think we can go in with confidence and with courage, and a sense of victory regardless of what happens,” Johnson said.  


It’s not often that the next generation of educators learn from someone with Johnson’s extensive administrative, classroom, and even political experience.

“Serving as Alaska’s commissioner of education has been an opportunity to learn about and experience leadership, government, and systems in a variety of settings and jurisdictions,” Johnson said.

A close associate of Johnson is South Carolina's Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman. She has served with him on the board of directors of the Council of Chief State School Officers where she has "observed his steady leadership skills." 

"I am thrilled that Michael Johnson will be joining CIU and the South Carolina family," Spearman said in a statement. "He is regarded as a mentor and friend to state educators across the United States. He will do a magnificent job in his new role at CIU." 


Meanwhile, Johnson says he and his family are preparing for the dramatic change in climate that comes with a move from Alaska to South Carolina. He once noted in an interview that a snow day in Alaska has nothing to do with snow, but instead school is cancelled when it gets to 50 below zero. Now he’ll have to adapt once again to Columbia’s famously hot temperatures and humidity.

“Interestingly, very few houses and buildings in Alaska have air conditioning,” Johnson notes. “Not only will we have to get used to the heat outside, but also the cool air inside. Our wardrobe may need some adaptation.”

With record enrollment  for five straight years, CIU consistently ranks among the Top Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News & World Report, as well as a Best Value Regional University in the South. Apply now or request information on enrollment by contacting Admissions at (803) 807-5024 or admissions@ciu.edu.                                      

Dr. Michael Johnson (Alaska Dept. of Education)

Dr. Michael Johnson (Alaska Dept. of Education)