ASU's top-rated professor teaches English and stays humble

Erik Johnson has a 100% 'would take again' rating on Rate My Professors

When he's not teaching in the English department at ASU, he's probably traveling or spending time with his 10-month-old daughter — or being praised online as the top-rated professor at the University.

With 141 reviews and 100% “would take again” responses, Erik Johnson, an instructor in the English department, has the highest rating on Rate My Professors at ASU.

Although he’s listed as the top professor, he's adamant that he's not doing anything special and says he works with a lot of people that “do exactly what I do.”

Johnson said one of the most important lessons he’s learned is: “If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s OK as long as you keep plotting along.”

Johnson has seven brothers and sisters, describing them as “a big hippie family.” He said he and his siblings were born in seven different countries, and he was born in Sweden. 

“Because I teach international students, I have a lot of experience. In fact, I grew up speaking English because my mother's American, but I always spoke English as the foreigner … So when I'm teaching international and foreign students, it's kind of easier for me to understand differences in communication,” Johnson said. 

Johnson graduated with a degree in Spanish from ASU and then traveled for a while, teaching students in Bolivia. He knew from that experience that he wanted to continue teaching. 

“I just love teaching, I think that maybe I always taught because I'm the oldest of a bunch brothers,” he said. "I think as an older brother, you’re always kind of always a teacher.” 

When he returned to Arizona, he pursued his masters in teaching English as a second language and then went on to get his Ph.D. in rhetoric, composition and linguistics. 

When he's not teaching, Johnson said he travels frequently — Southeast Asia being a favorite, and he spends time with his 10-month-old daughter Mila.

“I have a very hairy black lab, and I have a 10-month-old daughter who's totally in love with him,” Johnson said. "They love each other so much. He's big — he's part Rottweiler, but he's so gentle with her.” 

Heather Ackerman, an instructor in the English department, said Johnson is extremely humble and that she considers it an honor to call him a friend. 

“He is dedicated to his students, he is on campus all hours of the day, trust me I know, I frequently run into him after hours or first thing in the morning and he thinks nothing of it,” Ackerman said. “This is just de rigueur because he wants to put everything out there for his students — he's that dedicated.” 

Ackerman said Johnson is warm, funny and a “jokester.” 

“You can imagine that the brilliance, the wit, all of that gets funneled into some really good jokes where he'll be pulling your leg for five minutes and you won't realize it until just the last second,” she said. “So yeah, he's fun, friendly, as I said, humble, just a wonderful person to have in the office.”

Adelheid Thieme, a senior lecturer in the English department, said she’s proud that someone in the English department received this ranking. She said Johnson’s 2019 spring semester evaluations were glowing.

“He's very friendly, relatable and personable, and this is probably the reason why he gets the high rating,” Thieme said. 


Reach the reporter at bstoshne@asu.edu and follow @itsbrennaaaa on Twitter. 

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