Justin Stephens/ABC; Eric McCandless/ABC
November 10, 2008 12:00 AM

Last Monday, the judges on Dancing with the Stars gave former NFL star Warren Sapp and partner Kym Johnson a hard time after their foxtrot, saying the pair had taken a proverbial step back. With the field narrowed to five contestants, Johnson tells PEOPLE she and Sapp are determined to take things up a notch.

“My strategy for next week is put more hours in and keep enjoying each dance because if we are enjoying what we are doing on the dancefloor then the judges and audience hopefully will too!” says Johnson.

Dancing for the fun of it is something Johnson knows very well. Every Wednesday for the past two months the Australian dance pro has been leading a dance class to with Down syndrome in Burbank, Calif. In association with the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles, Johnson has been teaching approximately 60 students ranging in age from two to 52. All of the students wear blue T-shirts that read ‘Dancing With Our Star Kym Johnson,’ and most of them are voting for Johnson and Sapp.

“One girl told me she’s splitting her votes between me and Cheryl Burke,” Johnson says, laughing. “I lose myself in this hour each week because the students are so incredible and so full of energy and love. They have so much fun and it makes me so happy to be with them.”

The students are currently learning a routine to the High School Musical tune “We’re All In This Together,” which they performed at the 14th annual Buddy Walk on November 2 in Los Angeles.

Getting down to business–the DWTS finals–Johnson says Sapp is looking at the ballroom competition with an athlete’s mindset. “He told me ‘we are in the playoffs now and we have to get to the final,’” Johnson says. “He’s determined and so am I.” –Monica Rizzo

Justin Stephens/ABC; Eric McCandless/ABC

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