News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
SUNDAY, APRIL 23, 2006


Educators are unsung heroes of today’s society

The adage that everybody is replaceable is good wisdom but some people come close to defying the odds.

Joyce Johnston, principal at Decatur's Somerville Road Elementary School, is retiring after 11 years. She took what many people saw as an impossible assignment and, with the help of her teachers and staff, made the school a star.

Somerville Road doesn't lead in test scores and it stays in or near trouble with the No Child Left Behind bureaucracy. But a stroll through Somerville Road can boost a person's faith in public education.

Somerville Road has mostly low-income children and is where the school system educates children who are in special education and are physically handicapped.

In discussions with Mrs. Johnston over the years, we've seen her angry that so much is expected of her staff. We've seen her frustrated that some programs fail. But her dedication to making life better for the students softens her anger. Her temporary frustrations turn into challenges.

Her staff knows her as a demanding taskmaster. She challenges them to do more, and they respond.

What is even more impressive is how the faculty takes children from backgrounds that are so different and challenging and blends them into a student body that thrives on their differences.

Somerville Road will replace Mrs. Johnston, of course, because other educators are as dedicated as she is to making a difference in young lives.

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