Beloved teacher honored with retirement parade
By Samantha Lyles
After 38 years teaching at Darlington’s Pate Elementary School, retiring educator Kathy Johnson received a delightful surprise May 28 as colleagues staged a drive-by parade in her honor.
With social distancing still in place, planned parties and gatherings weren’t possible, but her fellow teachers wanted to celebrate her career anyway. As a stunned Johnson laughed in her front yard, dozens of vehicles streamed past while passengers honked, danced, shouted encouragement and showered her with gifts, including a dozen roses and a commemorative plaque.
Finding colleagues to sing Johnson’s praises was not difficult. Stephanie Cotton, 2nd grade teacher at Pate Elementary, said she first met Johnson upon arriving at Pate in 2001.
“First she was my evaluator, then we worked together on the 2nd grade team, then we became best buds!” Cotton recalled. “She is very, very sweet. She would give someone her right hand if they needed it, but also if she says something, she means it. She always goes the extra mile for her students – like if a kid does not know something, she would spend extra time with them to make sure they didn’t fall behind. She would give treats on Friday afternoons, so the kids knew if they did the right thing all week, they were getting a special treat. … She’s just a sweetheart and we’re all in tears about her leaving.”
“Mrs. Johnson is a teacher that is respected by her school family. She is a professional educator that set the bar high for all to follow. She pours out her motherly spirit with a caring but firm disposition. She holds fast to truth and her faith. She is teacher full of grace and fidelity,” said Janeen Thomas, Exceptional Education Teacher at Pate Elementary. “Mrs. Kathy Johnson has inspired students in her classroom to be their very best. She did not dwell on what they could not do. she did not allow her students to give up on themselves. Mrs. Johnson had a classroom environment that was welcoming to the eye but more so welcoming to her students to come and learn.
“Come and learn the possibilities to set visions that leads to life long goals. Come and learn to set standards of being a model citizen who will make a stance to up hold promises of a life of hard work and of community service. Come and learn to share your thoughts, feelings, and your voice. Come and learn joining a community of learners who can take risk and enjoy learning that is unique and full of love. This is Mrs. Kathy Johnson, an extraordinary teacher!”
“Mrs. Johnson was my mentor as a beginning teacher, and now I am her principal at the school she began at and the school she is ending her career at,” said Pate Elementary Principal Shannon Fraser. “She is a class act and has been a class act all of these years. She deserves this retirement and more! Thanks for all of those you have touched, both young and old.”
“My mom has been a teacher for all of my life,” said Johnson’s daughter Brittany Carlton. “I can remember going with her in the summers to get her classroom ready for the next school year. I learned how to to staple, use a glue gun, and cut out lamination at a young age. I would watch how she would teach her students and saw how much she loved and cared for them. She inspired me to go into education to become a teacher too. It is because of her that now I have been teaching for 11 years. She has given me such great advice over the years. When I’ve had a bad day at school she truly understands and can relate. I hope that I can make as much of an impact as she has in her 38 years in education. I am so excited and happy for my mom on her next adventure in life. My daughter who calls her ‘Mimi’ can’t wait to spend more time with her.”
“It’s been awesome. I have been so blessed,” said Johnson, adding that Pate Elementary felt like her second home. “They’ve always had wonderful administration and teachers, and it’s been an honor to work in a school district that stands behind you and is so supportive. The people are very loving and caring. We are a family at Pate.”
Though she felt understandably sad at the thought of not seeing her colleagues daily, Johnson said she was excited for the next phase of her life, which will involve lots of relaxing and reading by the pool, spending time with grandkids and traveling with her husband.
Thanks to Mrs. Johnson for all her hard work, and best wishes for the future — which will hopefully include that dream vacation to Hawaii.