Sulphur Springs ISD Board Of Trustees this week celebrated the “career of a valued employee, treasured educator and cherished friend” for a milestone achievement few achieve in their career. Rowena Johnson was honored for 50 years of service at SSISD.
“Tonight is an extremely special night. It’s a night we can all come together to celebrate, and I can’t think of a better person to celebrate this night with than Mrs. Rowena Johnson,” SSISD Board of Trustees President Robert Cody said during the board’s regular June meeting.
The Lamar Primary School principal in March officially turned in her notice of intent to retire this year. Cody recognized the long-time educator as the first SSISD female African American elementary principal,
Rowena Spigner Johnson has diligently served students for 50 years, from 1970 to 2020, starting as a third grade Houston elementary teacher in 1970. She served as a third-sixth grade teacher at Bowie Elementary from 1971 to 1991. In fact, Cody noted, she taught him at Bowie during that time. She serve as a reading specialist from 1991 to 93 at Travis Elementary. Johnson became campus principal at the Lamar campus in 1993, and has continued to serve as campus principal through this year.
“She has left a legacy in education in the Sulphur Springs ISD and made a difference in the lives of students, fellow educators, administrators and board members,” Cody read from a framed resolution recognizing Johnson.
Cody presented Johnson with the resolution as well as a vase of flowers.
Assistant Superintendent Kristin Monk acknowledged Johnson “for all that she has meant to me in my role as an educator.” Monk first met Johnson as a student at Bowie Elementary.
“I knew how nice she was and everyone wanted to be in her classroom,” Monk said. As an administrator, 12 year ago when I became the principal at Travis, you were always very helpful to me. We could data and TAKS testing at the time and things like that,” Monk said.
From Johnson, she learned just how to be tough — to figure out what you want to do and make it happen. Johnson also set an example in her commitment to education.
“We are talking about 50 years, getting up and coming to school every day. She did that. I know what a hard job that is, the last 27 as principal. It’s a very hard job. So, I have her to look up to. I don’t know if I can make it 27 years in my role,” Monk said with a laugh. “You are a true jewel.”
Monk noted the importance of family and faith to Johnson.
“I think those things help her to be a very well rounded and a very good principal. I have enjoyed having you as a mentor,” Monk said, offering a hug of thanks to Johnson before presenting her with a photo of her seated on a bench at Lamar. The photo of a smiling Johnson has often served as a friendly welcome to new students assigned to Lamar, giving them at least one familiar face to recognize on their new journey as a Lamar student.
Superintendent Michael Lamb said when Billy Watkins, a former football teammate at Texas A&M University-Commerce, found out he’d been hired as SSISD superintendent 8 years ago he instructed him to “treat Mrs. Johnson right.” Watkins, a former Sulphur Springs SISD student, had fond memories of and great respect for Johnson. He recalled purchasing candy bars for Johnson and bringing them to her on school days. So, when he found out Johnson would be at one of his very first meetings as a superintendent, he came in prepared. He put a Snickers bar down for her. They shared a laugh as she recalled the little boy who used to bring her candy bars.
“He helped me with that deal and it’s been nothing but love ever since,” Lamb said with a laugh. “I can imagine putting 50 years in. That is such an amazing feat. Congratulations! You are an awesome lady and have done amazing things. We love you dearly.”
Lamb, on behalf of SSISD Board of Trustees, presented Johnson with a plaque of appreciation for 50 years of loyal, dedicated service to public education at SSISD. He offered congratulations “on a job well done.”
Typically, the recognition would be presented during a reception to allow others to honor the long-time educator for her service. However, due to COVID-19 were not able to host the reception on schedule, so the school officials celebrated her at the regular trustees meeting June 8. Lamb said the district would still like to host the celebration when safety guidelines allow them to do so.
“It’s been great. I thank the Good Lord for the opportunity to be able to have served for 50 years, because without Him, it would not have been possible. So, all praise and glory go to our heavenly Father,” Johnson said. “I wish the district well.”
Joining Johnson at the regular school board meeting Monday night for the celebration of her 50 years in education were her daughter 2 granddaughters, sister, and 2 cousins and friends.
Patricia Cooper, a friend and cousin of Johnson, noted that Rowena Johnson “took to heart Galations 6:9-10.” Cooper said Lamar school is dear to her heart as her mom taught there for 30 years, and Rowena has faithfully served as Lamar principal for 27 years. In honor of Johnson’s service, Cooper asked the school board to consider the possibility of changing the school from Lamar to Rowena Johnson Elementary School.
“We will certainly take that into consideration. Thank you,” Lamb told her.