In her 50 years of service at HISD, Billie Jo Johnson has been an outstanding and successful educator. She began working for the school district in 1959, was a teacher for more than 14 years and worked her way up to principal of HISD’s Thompson Elementary were she served for more than three decades.
After half a century, Mrs. Johnson is retiring. Her last day on the job will be tomorrow, Friday, January 30, at HISD’s Central Region Office (812 W. 28th, 77028) when she will say her farewells to colleagues.
“To me, Billie Jo Johnson is a wonderful example of integrity, character, grace, and charm,” said HISD’s Central Region Superintendent Adriana Tamez. “Her essence has made her such a blessing to HISD for the past 50 years. Her tireless efforts as educator and leader to do what is right for kids is a superior model for anyone who aspires to be a champion for children. I have been honored to work with her and regard her not only as a colleague but a friend.”
Mrs. Johnson knew she could make a difference in others’ lives at a very young age. She was only 12 years old when she organized children in her neighborhood to give up their Saturdays for a three mile walk to the public library, since their elementary school had no library. She later became high school Valedictorian and went on to pursue a bachelor and master’s degree from Texas Southern University. But growing up during the Civil Rights Movement was not easy.
“We sat in the back of the buses or had to stand if the bus became too full,” said Johnson. “I remember that my mother knew to carry food when we left home because there may not be a sandwich shop that would sell us something to eat.”
In 1970, Ms. Johnson became the first African-American teacher to receive the Outstanding Young Educator Award. She was working as a fourth grade teacher at HISD’s Lockhart Elementary and was selected over hundreds of teachers district wide. The principal of the school at the time said to a local newspaper, “Mrs. Johnson is an energetic and imaginative teacher.”
Her energy and imagination later took her to Thompson Elementary in 1975. There she would spend the next 33 years obtaining major goals, such as piloting a Gifted and Talented Program, increasing parent involvement, and collaborating with the community to build two new schools. Thompson also became the first energy-saving LEED school in the district under Mrs. Johnson’s administration. One of her most exciting moments, she says, was earning a “Recognized” rating for the school.
“I remember dancing the ‘Harlem Shuffle’ on the school’s roof as I had promised to the students,” said Johnson. “It was easy to climb up the roof, but not that easy to climb down.”
Now that she’s retiring, at age 71, Mrs. Johnson plans to help her church school enhance the instructional programs and increase enrollment. She also wants to travel.
“I want to visit New York City,” said Johnson. “And I also want to continue learning, maybe I’ll get my Ph.D.”