Tampa, Florida -- A military hero, turned community hero, is getting big props from the Tampa Bay Lighting Thursday night.
Fivay High School teacher Eric J. Johnson's journey to the classroom was tough.
The former U.S. Marine spent two years learning how to walk again after injuring his back while serving in Japan.
Johnson started teaching in 2003 after earning his masters at USF, and is famous for taking students on historic trips around the country.
His unique gift is putting caring into action via projects and thousands of volunteer hours. Eric gets low-income kids into college/careers. He expands their horizons with technology, hands-on projects, community service, historic trips to St. Augustine, Washington D.C. and more. He engages them in fundraisers to help instill entrepreneurial skills and pay trip expenses.
Eric says his aim is "taking education beyond the classroom," and "its one thing to read about Gettysburg but another entirely to see it."
Every year he takes students to meet with college counselors and says, "I have seen kids cry as they see for the first time that college is a possibility."
Being around Eric inspires one to do more with one's life. His humility, passion, creativity, and hard work bring out the best in others. Taking kids from poverty to graduating Ivy League schools is no small feat. He has walked in their shoes.
He has been named the 2013 Florida Teacher of the Year and Nobel Distinguished Educator.
Release courtesy Tampa Bay Lightning