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November 1, 2023

SVSU professor earns national award for teaching excellence

portrait of man with glasses on dark blue background

Saginaw Valley State University professor J. Blake Johnson has been recognized for his leadership and excellence in the classroom. Johnson, SVSU professor of art, joins 42 other educators across the country who will be honored with the prestigious 2024 NEA Foundation Award for Teaching Excellence. 

Johnson was nominated by the Michigan Education Association, which earlier this year honored him with the 2023 Distinguished Servant of Public Education Award. Johnson serves as a faculty mentor for Cardinal Solutions, which provides SVSU students with opportunities to work directly with external clients.

“I am deeply honored to be one of the recipients of the 2024 Award for Teaching Excellence from the NEA Foundation,” Johnson said. “This recognition underscores the dedication and passion of our SVSU Cardinal Solutions team in bridging our talented students with real-world community needs. Unlike conventional programs, we empower students with real responsibilities and encourage them to work across disciplines, enriching their learning experiences. Furthermore, our program offers the unique opportunity for students to earn academic credits while they gain real-world experience. I am thrilled that the NEA Foundation has recognized the transformative impact of this program.”

The 2024 educator awardees will be honored at the NEA Foundation Salute to Excellence in Education on May 3, 2024, at The Anthem in Washington, D.C. Five of the awardees nominated by the National Education Association’s state affiliates will be chosen as finalists for the top national award, receiving $10,000. The educator selected for the top honor will be revealed at the NEA Foundation Salute to Excellence in Education and receive $25,000.

Criteria for recognition include leadership, excellence in the classroom, family and community engagement, a commitment to equity and diversity, and advocacy for the teaching profession.

In a statement released from the NEA Foundation, President and CEO Sara A. Sneed said, “These extraordinary awardees remind us that educators are the backbone of our communities and our democracy. At a time when educators and public education are under attack, these educators have been at the forefront of ensuring access to a high quality education for all students. Building a bright future for America’s children requires that we all do our part to support educators and racial justice in public education." 

Johnson joined the SVSU art faculty in 2007, teaching a variety of classes related to graphic design and web design. In 2013, he served as an exchange professor and Shikoku University in Tokushima, Japan. In 2016, he was a visiting professor at Shenyang Aerospace University in Shenyang, China.  

Johnson holds an associate degree in art from Brigham Young University, a Bachelor of Fine Arts from ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California, and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Idaho.  

For more information on the NEA Foundation Awards for Teaching Excellence, visit