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CV student sees beyond circumstances

Caleb Johnson poses for a photo during the 24th Annual Spokane Scholars banquet on April 18 at the Spokane Convention Center in Spokane, Wash. Johnson has esotropia amblyopia, causing very limited vision; he is legally blind. He has a 3.942 grade-point average, has taken  seven  Advanced Placement classes, and is an AP Scholar, having scored 5s on all the exams he has completed. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Caleb Johnson poses for a photo during the 24th Annual Spokane Scholars banquet on April 18 at the Spokane Convention Center in Spokane, Wash. Johnson has esotropia amblyopia, causing very limited vision; he is legally blind. He has a 3.942 grade-point average, has taken seven Advanced Placement classes, and is an AP Scholar, having scored 5s on all the exams he has completed. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Caleb Johnson sees a positive in most any situation. His bright-side perspective even extends to having had limited vision since age 4.

“I haven’t let it slow me down,” said Johnson, 18, who carries a 3.94 GPA at Central Valley High School. He enjoys playing the piano and reading.

When Johnson wears his maximum-correction glasses for vision exams, he still tests as needing glasses.

“Moderate vision disability is the term my doctor uses,” he said. “When I was 4, I got rapid-onset cataracts, and after developing it, I became legally blind. Through various surgeries, I recovered my vision to a certain degree.

“I don’t really know a comparison to before or after, so I don’t allow it to ever depress me.”

Johnson instead honed certain strengths and strategies that have helped him excel in school. Mainly, he has developed sharp listening and memory skills that absorb in detail what’s discussed in the classroom.

During instruction, Johnson uses an iPad to magnify what’s written on whiteboards and requests large-print class materials. Otherwise, there’s no teacher’s aide or other special technology. For videos shown, he relies on the audio.

“I have a really great memory when a teacher says something,” he said. “It makes it great when I take AP classes, because after a class when I think about it, I can recall the right information.”

He received CV’s Spokane Scholars award in social studies, his favorite subject, while also earning the highest score of 5 on three Advanced Placement tests. When he graduates, he’ll have completed seven AP courses.

Johnson is always positive, said his mother, Julie Johnson, and five eye surgeries at ages 4 and 5 didn’t seem to faze him. Cloudiness had occurred in the lenses of his eyes and capsules. Because of his young age when vision was still developing, it halted normal development.

“So the vision never returns to normal,” she said. “He takes it in stride. It’s caused him to develop personality traits that are such an advantage to him. He has an incredible memory.”

Kathryn Teske, AP U.S. history teacher, taught Johnson his sophomore year when he asked to join the class two weeks into school. On a Friday, she handed him the required assignments already completed by classmates, including summer homework.

“He came back on Monday all the way caught up,” Teske said. “He’s just one of those kids who always does his work and is ready to contribute to a conversation.”

For extracurricular activities, Johnson participates in team competitions using parliamentary procedures to run meetings for Future Business Leaders of America. He is FBLA chapter parliamentarian and a varsity member for CV’s Knowledge Bowl academic competitions.

In spare time, Johnson sometimes plays piano at retirement homes with a church volunteer group. Reading, from science fiction to classics, is his favorite hobby.

After graduation, he plans to study computer science at Brigham Young University. He hopes to become a software engineer and design systems enabling people to do more.

“To make systems that can help people, that’s the goal.”


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