Doctoral Learner Spotlight: Natalie Johnson

Doctoral students sit in a lecture

Natalie Johnson, a learner in Grand Canyon University’s Doctor of Philosophy in General Psychology with an Emphasis in Industrial and Organizational Psychology program, recently received a prestigious honor: She was named a Top 5 Finalist from the State of Illinois for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

According to the PAEMST website, the PAEMST “are the nation’s highest honors for teachers of mathematics and science (including computer science).”

This year’s winner will be announced in summer 2016.

Natalie, who teaches math at a secondary school, has been on her doctoral journey with GCU since July 2013. Her work is truly inspirational, as she is an experienced and passionate educator, a lifelong learner and a businesswoman with an important cause.

Tell us about yourself.
I teach math in a mega-high school (over 3,000 students), sponsor a student club there, and am the girls’ basketball announcer for our varsity team. I have taught math at the secondary level for a little over 15 years. I have been married for 28 years, and we have two adult sons. My youngest son graduated from college this past June. With that, my husband and I are officially empty nesters. For fun, I play volleyball and piano. I also teach grades 5-7 in my church’s Sunday school.

My general area of focus for my dissertation is closing the achievement gap for Black and Hispanic students across the U.S., something I am very passionate about. To that end, in 2007, I formed a company, READit, LLC, to focus on just that because I take all student learning seriously. Feel free to check us out at, and let me know if I can assist in a school district near you.

Why did you choose GCU?
I chose GCU because I researched its program offerings and realized that the PhD in industrial and organizational psychology program was a perfect fit for my personal and professional needs. Not only did the program provide excellent instruction at the doctoral level, but it also provided a well-organized approach to obtaining my doctorate and gaining knowledge essential to classroom teaching and running my business more effectively and efficiently. I had been searching for the right fit for 15 years. To that end, it has been a wonderful, challenging and rewarding journey thus far.

What have you enjoyed most about being in the College of Doctoral Studies?
I started this doctoral journey in July 2013 and can honestly say that, overall, it has been an enlightening and memorable journey.

Mostly, I have enjoyed the outstanding and regular instruction and knowledge sharing provided by my instructors and cohort members. The librarians have also been exceptional in assisting me with research tasks; they have helped me become more literate in searching databases in general. I have enjoyed the daily learning and growth of the entire experience.

Congratulations on earning the Top 5 in the State of Illinois for the PAEMST! Can you tell us a bit about that?
As a finalist for the PAEMST, I am truly honored to share this with GCU, as I have applied what I have learned in my doctoral program into my classroom. According to the PAEMST website, “Awardees serve as models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities and leaders in the improvement of mathematics and science education. Since 1983, more than 4,400 teachers have been recognized for their contributions in the classroom and to their profession.”

What would you like other learners who are considering coming to GCU to know?
Knowing that you will be challenged and rewarded for hard work speaks volumes to the authenticity of the program offerings at GCU in general. Feeling confident in the competence of the instructors and advisors all along the way is unsurpassed. Most instructors are patient in general and provide one-on-one guidance when asked. Overall, it will be a rewarding experience for serious learners who are willing to invest in hard work with a reputable organization.

GCU’s College of Doctoral Studies offers PhD and EdD programs that help you gain valuable skills so that you can advance your career and become a lifelong learner. For more information about the College of Doctoral Studies, contact us today.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.

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