St. Charles Herald-Guide

Pre-K teacher honored for 40 years of service

By Shonna Riggs - May 9, 2007

Rosalind White Johnson "treats" her students to reading, writing and arithmetic like any other teacher, but she also works extra hard to help them to build character and learn the importance of self-discipline - all before they enter kindergarten.

“Most people say they don’t have the patience to work with children, but I love what I do,” said Johnson, who has taught and mentored over 400 pre-kindergaten students at First Baptist Church, in Paradis, and also from a private home since 1967.

“And the children really learn a lot.”
The grateful congregation at First Baptist will vouch for that.

The church was so appreciative of Johnson that they honored her in a special awards ceremony recognizing her 40-year commitment to children of the community.

Johnson - who prefers not to give her age - didn’t set out to spend her life in a classroom.

“My pastor, the late Rev. H.A Hills and his wife, Alice, trained me to work with the children in the church when I was 22 years old,” she said.

“Several years later after my parents passed away, I moved my class from the church into their home.
“I turned it into a school.”

And she’s still bringing students into that home, where for just $25 per week she teaches them the skills they’ll need to excel in kindergarten - and beyond.

She even provides free meals for youngsters who need them - out of her own pocket without any assistance from the state.
Her teaching philosophies are “hands on” and simple.
The children began their day by reciting four classroom rules:

- No talking.
- Find your seat.
- Stay in your seat.
- Wait for your teacher.

In a complicated world, that might sound a little old fashioned.

But that’s a good thing, says Johnson.

"I think what works well with children is consistency and a routine,” she explained.

Johnson also shuns high-tech “bells and whistles” like computerized learning tools that some teachers can’t live without.

“I use simple things, charts with the alphabets, colors, paper, pencils and crayons,” she said, adding that her students range in age from 2 to 5.

“I prepare lessons for 12 children without any teaching assistant,” she added. “It’s very hard to find a helper.”
As a 40-year veteran of the classroom, Johnson sees big differences between today’s kids and those of years, and decades, gone by."

“Over the years, I’ve noticed changes in the way children behave,” she said.

“The kids used to be more respectful. They listened to their parents and other adults.

“This world is changing so fast and these kids have access to just about anything they want, so their attitudes are different.”

Johnson said the greatest gift a child can get from a parent is - you guessed it - quality time.

“That’s more important than giving them a lot of material things,” she continued, pausing for a moment before giving this bit of advice: "Don’t let them have their way all the time.”

Occasionally former students visit Johnson - and as you might imagine, she enjoys seeing them.

Glynn Boyd, a senior reporter for ABC26 News in New Orleans, is one of her “pre-K graduates” - and he was there to give Johnson a hug when her achievements were recognized at First Baptist Church.

He even serenaded her with the song he sang the day he graduated from her kindergarten class in 1968 - “There she is ... Miss Kindergarten.”

"She was my first teacher," he said, "and she was very supportive and inspirational to me.

“She’s been a part of the community for a long time and I was happy to see her receive this award.”

EDUCATION FIRST. Alajza Woods, 3, of Killona and the youngest student in the school, recites the alphabet for teacher Rosalind Johnson.
EDUCATION FIRST. Alajza Woods, 3, of Killona and the youngest student in the school, recites the alphabet for teacher Rosalind Johnson.