‘He enriches them:’ Orange County teacher inspires students with weekly running club

Johnny Guignet teaches 2nd grade at Waterford Lakes Elementary School

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – An Orange County second-grade teacher is inspiring students both inside and outside of the classroom as a volunteer running coach.

Johnny Guignet teaches at Waterford Lakes Elementary School. In September, he and two fellow teachers started the Roaring Running Club. The club meets every Monday after school.

“And at Waterford, with the running club, I’m able to connect with students that I don’t see every day, but I see in the hallway so I’m able to build rapport with those students,” Guignet said. “So when you talk about a runner, it’s anyone. You don’t have to look a certain way to be a runner. And what we focus on is about how to run and how to take care of our bodies.”

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Waterford Elementary Principal Danielle Arbelaez-Willis said Guignet is a special teacher.

“Johnny Guignet is a ball of energy. He has the most incredible lessons for his students. He makes sure that he enriches them in any way he can,” she said. “He will do whatever it is just so that they feel like, ‘Wow, I’m excited to be in school and I can learn and I can also have fun.’ It’s a perfect balance and our students are successful because of him.”

Arbelaez -Willis added that Guignet’s students are making “wonderful gains in reading, math, and social studies.” Guignet said he strives to be a safe, positive space for students.

“I’m the first thing my students see when they walk into my classroom. So I’m setting their energy for the day. So if I’m setting that negative energy, they’re going to feed off that,” he said. “So you know, greeting them in the classroom in the morning, we have our music playing. I give them time to socialize. We have our routines and procedures and they know it. They work hard for me, but at the same time I try to work as hard for them and I see that paying off throughout my teaching.”

Guignet said a recent highlight of the Roaring Running Club was when about 30 members met and ran a 5K together.

“You don’t realize how important that finish line is. You look at it, oh it’s just a finish line. It’s way more than that. You cross that finish line, and you just not only have completion, you set a new goal for yourself. If you’re a runner, you’re always setting new goals for yourself,” he said.

Next month Guignet realizes a long-time goal of his own when he runs the Boston Marathon.

“I’m living in the moment and I want to just be living on cloud 9 when I’m running that race,” Guignet said.

The Boston Marathon is April 18.

“We couldn’t be more proud of him and he has all of his wildcats in the background cheering for him,” Arbelaez-Willis said.

About the Author:

Julie Broughton's career in Central Florida has spanned more than 14 years, starting with News 6 as a meteorologist and now anchoring newscasts.