Peg Johnston retiring after 16 years of bringing enthusiasm, love, care to classroom

Job Title: Senior Lecturer, Kinesiology and Sport Sciences
Years at UNK: 16
Family: Husband, Don, and three adult children with five grandchildren
Hobbies/Interests: Church and ministry service, exercise, cooking, gardening (flowers and vegetables), traveling to national parks, home renovations, reading, sewing and needlework
Three words that describe your personality: Loyal, funny (both humorous and quirky) and caring

Share something about yourself that few people know:
I’ve lived in Nebraska all of my life, except for two years when we lived in Romania, where we helped start a church. In my high school class, I am most noted for my eighth grade adventure where I ended up breaking a sink in the junior high school girls’ bathroom.

What do you like most about your job?
I love getting to know the students and hearing stories of how they are applying what they learn and then how improved nutrition intake has positively impacted their lives.

Biggest change you’ve seen at UNK since you started?
Initially all of the assignments, quizzes, exams, etc. were done with paper and pencil and submitted in the classroom. Now, all of those things are submitted or taken online. Also, students today seem less eager to ask questions and jump into classroom conversations.

What mentor has helped you the most in your career?
My No. 1 mentor at UNK was Sylvia Asay. She was my “go to” even before she was my department head and contributed to my professional development as she guided me in becoming a better educator.

What is your favorite thing about UNK?
I love the students. I love my co-workers. I love the energy of the UNK environment.

Where is your favorite place to visit on campus?
Probably the Health and Sports Center, as we have attended many volleyball and basketball games through the years. However, I think west campus is the prettiest part of UNK.

What is your fondest memory of UNK?
This might sound crazy, but my fondest memories are from last fall when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am so thankful for the co-workers God blessed me with. They were champions at coming alongside of me to support, encourage and help to carry my workload so I could pursue surgery and radiation treatments. My students were caring and understanding, sending many prayers and well wishes – even a vase of flowers from three of them.

Biggest challenge you faced in your time at UNK?
Getting students to verbally engage in the classroom, which has been even harder since the advent of COVID and masks.

What qualities make someone successful in your position?
A love and care for students and an enthusiasm for your subject matter.

How do you measure success, in terms of your career?
My syllabi had numerous objectives for each course, but my No. 1 objective was always that my students would be eating healthier at the end of the semester than they were before they started the course. That was often the case, and many of them would also tell stories that they were passing on what they learned to their family at home. Some of them even reported that their mom or dad had lost weight, as they were applying information that the student had shared with them.

Tell me about the time in your UNK career when you worked the hardest:
I think I probably worked the hardest when we developed the nutrition minor. The process of developing new courses and finding courses already offered on campus to fill electives for the minor was time-consuming, but it was a gratifying process, and it has met a need for students. I knew it was time to retire when just thinking about developing a new course made me tired. It is time for someone who is younger, with more energy, to step into this position.

If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?
Nothing. Through the years, God has blessed me with an incredible work life. I have loved every job I’ve ever had as a registered dietitian.