Greenbrier Student of the Year ranked No. 1 in his class

By Tammy Keith Published March 20, 2017 at 10:56 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: William Harvey

Miles Johnson, 17, was named Student of the Year by the Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce. Johnson, who is ranked No. 1 in his senior class, is equally at home taking a calculus class as playing soccer. He will graduate with an associate degree and is headed to Hendrix College in Conway in the fall.

Greenbrier Student of the Year Miles Johnson compared his personality to his favorite kind of humor — puns.

“I love puns. Puns — you have to actually think about them. … It’s not one of those easy jokes you look up online.”

Johnson, 17, said he’s somewhat of an introvert, but he can be talkative when the situation calls for it.

“I can be a multitude of things. I change really based on the environment. That’s how puns are — they change off their environment.”

The Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce selected Johnson as its Student of the Year, and the high school senior was honored with other award-winners March 3 at a banquet.

“I got it and said, ‘OK, this is a little odd. I wasn’t expecting this,’” he said. “I was really excited.”

The second of four boys, he is a son of Terry and Geneva Johnson. Growing up with all that testosterone in the home was, “aggressive is the only thing I can say,” Miles Johnson said, laughing. “There were a lot of arguments, and most of them were really dumb. We all basically have the same general likes and dislikes. … Overall, I think it was fun. I would rather have brothers [than not],” he said.

His brothers are Garrett Johnson, 18, a student at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway; Gavin Johnson, 13; and Liam, who turned 11 on St. Patrick’s Day.

Miles’ mother described him as “super sweet, helpful and kind — he’s just a great kid.”

She said although they weren’t totally surprised that Miles won the Student of the Year honor, “we were very proud.”

“He’s always done well in school,” Geneva Johnson said.

That might be a slight understatement. He has been No. 1 in his class since about eighth grade.

“It started just as, ‘Yeah, I guess it’d be cool to be No. 1 in my class.’ I want to stay there,” Miles Johnson said.

Chamber President Audreya Cole Brown said Johnson is deserving of the Student of the Year honor.

“To be No. 1 in his class and carry the intense course load he does, Miles is obviously a very gifted and dedicated young man,” Brown said. “He definitely has a bright future ahead of him.”

Johnson said that although there are “a lot of smart people at Greenbrier,” it wasn’t too hard to keep his ranking.

“It’s just taking the upper-level classes and just staying focused. Sometimes I have to give up free time with friends, but if that’s what it takes,” he said, that’s what he does.

Greenbrier High School counselor Kim Hebel said Johnson is an asset to the school.

“I expect great things out of Miles,” Hebel said. “He is very intelligent and just the nicest kid you could want to be around. He’s polite; he’s got lots of varied interests. We’re lucky to have him.”

Johnson has played soccer since he was 5, and he has been on the school soccer team since his freshman year. He plays midfield and wing. He’s a member of the Quiz Bowl, the Book Club, the Association of Christian Students and Beta Club, and is president of Mathletes.

The teenager plans to attend Hendrix College in Conway in the fall, then go to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to become a pharmacist.

He said of Hendrix, “I really like their campus, first of all, and their food. Yeah, definitely their food; I love food. Also, they rank high not only in Arkansas but in the U.S., and they have a really good chemistry department.”

He credits his dad with instilling a love of science in him.

Terry Johnson is a master teacher in STEMteach at the University of Central Arkansas and has also been a public school teacher. Miles attended fourth through seventh grades in the Mount Vernon-Enola School District when his father was teaching there. Before then, Miles was home-schooled.

“I really enjoy math, but I have to say chemistry is my favorite subject,” Miles Johnson said. “There are a lot of things that are fun about it. I think it all really started because my dad was interested in science and tried to push it on us at a younger age.

“He’d say, ‘Hey, watch me do this experiment.’ It might have been a little annoying back then, but it kind of pushed me to look at what the sciences really had in store for me in school.”

In addition to the influence of his father, Johnson said he took Advanced Placement physics from Greenbrier High School teacher Darren Gainer.

“He was really just enthusiastic, so I started looking at it more, and it came easier to me,” Johnson said. “I like working down to molecules and how they work and bind.”

When Johnson was looking at options for his career, he decided to research all jobs that involve chemistry.

“I could do chemical engineering, engineering in general, mechanical engineering or do something that’s purely chemistry and not work with all these other variables,” he said. “There are lots of different types of pharmacies … nuclear pharmacies where you work with radioactive isotopes, working on cancer — not cures, just treatments for the moment — it just takes a certain amount of education to handle the isotopes without endangering everyone else.”

Johnson said he doesn’t know what kind of pharmacy he wants to work for, “but nuclear pharmacy does look interesting.”

He said his interest in being a pharmacist was also piqued when he attended the Arkansas Governor’s School at

Hendrix College last summer.

“One of the instructors was going into pharmacy, so she was really excited and talked a lot about that. It seemed to fit with me,” he said. “It seemed to fit my personality.”

You know, the kind of kid who goes the extra Miles. And likes puns.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or

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