Anthony Johnson is a beloved figure around these parts. He teaches fourth and fifth grade science and social studies right here in Rowan County–and he’s good at it! Great, actually: He’s the current teacher of the year for the school system, as well as the regional teacher of the year. In two days, he’ll be competing for the state title (and we’ll be cheering him on).
A beautiful day in February marked Anthony’s first actual visit to the dropzone, but he’s been aware of us for a long time. After all, he lives just half mile from the airport, and he’s been watching us jumping every Saturday and Sunday for years.
“I’ve always wanted to do it,” Anthony explains, “But I was over the weight limit.”
He didn’t have to wait much longer. Back in July of 2016, Anthony decided to make some serious lifestyle changes. He underwent had gastric sleeve surgery, holding that skydiving dream in mind. He resolved that–once he nudged under the 230 pound mark–he’d take himself straight to the skies. Between the date of his surgery and the day he made his first skydive, Anthony had dropped a whopping 77 pounds.
It’s important to note that the skydiving goal wasn’t just personal. He’s a teacher, after all–and he wanted to engage his students with the physical concepts underlying human flight.
“I wanted to use this as an opportunity to teach my students,” Anthony enthuses, “So I had a vest to wear that would measure the forces on my body and the rate that I was falling. I made sure to get audio and video of the whole experience, and I invited a couple of my students to come out to witness it with their parents.” When the day of Anthony’s jump rolled around, the local newspaper also came out to join Anthony’s fan club on the ground.
Anthony’s jump, of course, went beautifully–zipping past gorgeously fluffy cumulus clouds, finally seeing his home from that bird’s-eye perspective.
“It was surreal,” Anthony muses. “When the door opened, I knew that my students were down there watching me; ready for me to come out of that plane. I was watching them as we were under the parachute, and the excitement I saw on their faces–it made it so special.” Anthony’s students loved it, and videotaped the whole thing with their iPads. “They went crazy,” Anthony adds, grinning. “It was awesome.” He plans to use the footage for multiple teaching purposes: As a cloud-identification exercise as well as an iMovie editorial project for the “super creative” residents of his classrooms.
Upon landing, Anthony noticed that there had been one minor hiccup in the process.
“I borrowed that cool vest with the best of intentions,” he laughs, “But I didn’t even turn it on! I was so nervous when we got up top and the door opened. I’m just going to have come and do it again.”
We’re excited that Anthony–who used to curiously watch us jumping from his back porch–is planning on making a regular appearance on the dropzone. He insists that he’s looking forward to jumping with us “three or four times a year” from here on out, and we couldn’t be happier.
“[Skydiving] was one of those feelings that I am going to cherish for life,” Anthony grins. “I was thanking God when the parachute opened–thanking Him just for the experience. I know not everybody is able to do this, and I just want to share what I experienced; to tell people you really don’t have anything to be afraid of. I just jumped out of a plane from 10,000 feet. If you can do that, you can do anything.”