Teacher leaves remarkable legacy in schools, community

Now retired, woman also athlete, coach, counselor.

When retiring teachers at Bellbrook Middle School were celebrated May 23, 30-year teacher, coach and counselor Jeanne Biermann Johnson left a legacy hard to match.

Born in Bellbrook, she, like her seven siblings, spent most of her time playing sports. “Her father was a great tennis player, very regimented and scheduled, and the kids could either stay inside and do chores or go outside and play sports,” said her daughter, Lynzee Allen. “Of course, they all ended up playing sports.”

As Bellbrook students, Jeanne and her sister Julie led the girls basketball program to its first state appearance in 1976 under coach Ginny Greene. Jeanne was recruited and given a Division 1 scholarship to Wright State University, where she earned her degree while becoming a part of their 1,000-point scorer club.

“She joined the staff at Bellbrook in 1992,” said Bellbrook Middle School principal and athletic director Jeff Eckley. who joined the staff as a teacher five years later. “When I started, we were teaching together. She taught math and science and later became a guidance counselor, and coached girls basketball, track and softball — at the middle and high school — as well as high school cross country. We coached together until last year and shared plays, drills.”

According to her daughter, “her whole family was very athletic — Aunt Julie, a Bellbrook Hall of Famer, coached volleyball at UD and her retired jersey is hung at the high school. I didn’t realize until I was in college how successful the Biermann family was in sports. Her oldest sister Mary was a Hall of Famer at Roger Bacon, Mt. St. Joe, and at Northern Kentucky. And, I’m amazed at how many of her Bellbrook athletes went to college on athletic scholarships.

“When I was growing up, she was teaching, coaching and getting her master’s degree, so my brother Steven and I were on a tight schedule, but she was great at balancing her personal and professional life. She’s motivating, coaching the person, not just the player.

“I played volleyball and basketball under her in high school, and we were all-state; she won 19 league titles in volleyball at the high school level, but I went on to college on a Division 1 scholarship in basketball.

“After college, when an opening came up at Bellbrook, I took it.” Allen teaches eighth grade science and coaches varsity volleyball. Steven, who ran cross country and played tennis at Bellbrook, ran cross country at Denison, was an assistant coach at Wake Forest University, and now runs marathons, as does his mother.

Amanda Edwards Von Handorf, who’s been close friends with Lynzee since fourth grade, is also a former student and player of Johnson’s. “As a teacher, she created a fun learning environment, but I really got to know her better in high school volleyball.

“I learned she was competitive but caring, very serious about athletics – she pushed us, but in a loving way.

“After graduating from Muskingum, where I played volleyball, my husband and I moved back to Bellbrook, and now, I’ve been Lynzee’s assistant coach for four years. And, Jeanne’s our oldest child’s guidance counselor, so I feel like we’ve come full circle.”

According to Eckley, “She’s been such a good resource and my go-to person who knows all the kids, their strengths and weaknesses, and how best to approach them.”

Johnson’s late husband, Terry, an engineer, substituted in Bellbrook schools after he retired, and formed the Wee Eagles Football Program in their garage; Jeanne later set the groundwork for the Wee Eagles Volleyball.

“Today, hundreds of children are participating in football, cheerleading, basketball, and volleyball in Bellbrook/Sugarcreek Twp. because of the Johnsons’ vision and desire to help others,” says Eckley.

“Her legacy as a student and staff member will continue with numerous Bellbrook graduates who now teach in our schools.”

In retirement, Johnson doesn’t plan to return to the school system, says Lynzee, who has two young children. “She’s a golfer – it’ll be golfing and grandkids in retirement.”

Contact this writer at virgburroughs@gmail.com.

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