Being a momma has taught educator Theris Johnson a thing or two about kids and blessed her in ways she never dreamed possible.
Tell me about yourself.
Theris Johnson, age 46. I am a native and life-long resident of Birmingham. I was educated in the Birmingham City Schools system. I am a 1988 graduate of Ramsay High School. As a sixteen-year-old high school graduate, I enrolled at Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, AL. In 1992, I earned the bachelor of science degree in elementary education from JSU. In 1996, I earned the master of arts degree in elementary education from UAB. I hold additional certifications in early childhood education and educational administration. I also achieved National Board Certification in 2008 in the area of literacy. National Board Certification is considered the highest honor to be bestowed upon a teacher.
I am a career educator. I have served in Birmingham City Schools for the past 24 years. I also serve as administrative assistant at Forty-fifth Street Baptist Church, of which I am a lifelong member. I have served in that capacity for more than 15 years.
I am the mother of two daughters—Destiny, 24, who is a graduate of Florida A & M University and employed locally, and Annissa, 14, who is a 10th grader.
What do you want your daughters to learn from your life?
I want my daughters to have a love for Christ and a genuine love for people. I also want them to live with the love of Christ, in that they will strive to be honest and kind all the days of their lives. I want them to know and understand the value of a good work ethic. I want them to know that prayer works and that persistence and hard work pay off. I want them to have a sense of selflessness and to be able to help anyone they can however they can. Ultimately, I want them to plan purposefully, prepare prayerfully, proceed positively, and to pursue persistently. More importantly, I want them to live, love, laugh, and forgive.
What are the best and worst things about living in Birmingham?
I absolutely love living in Birmingham. It is certainly a family-friendly city. The cost of living is reasonable. There’s always something to do and something new to try. I’m not really big into nightlife, but I certainly enjoy the various food festivals, music festivals, and cultural activities.
The worst thing about Birmingham would be the negative perception others have of our city. Yes, we have a dark past. It is our history. It will not be erased, we just need to grow from it. People don’t give Birmingham a chance because of what we don’t have. I think others would find it quite enjoyable if they embrace what we do have. We need to find the good.
If you could change one thing about Birmingham, what would it be and why?
If I could change one thing, it would be the disparity in the area of education. I believe that all children can learn and they need to be provided with the best opportunities. With more than 12 systems within Jefferson County and many more community/ municipal boundaries, the quality of education provided varies from one extreme to the next. Some systems are struggling financially so they cannot afford many opportunities, others receive huge amounts in federal funding (due to economic statistics) to support student achievement, and then others have an abundance of financial and human resources from other entities. In the end, children’s abilities are often second-guessed when their educational opportunities and experiences are perceived differently than others in their same geographic region.
What is your proudest mom moment?
There have been countless! I try very hard to be present for all of their events—school programs, church activities, and extracurricular programs. I have witnessed them exhibiting certain character traits without being prompted. To say which one has made me proudest is tough, however their own personal decisions to confess Christ were certainly very important. They were both very young, and to know that they understood at the time and are growing daily in their faith means a lot. To know that they are primarily self-sufficient is something that makes me proud. It means a lot to be responsible, to take care of yourself, and to be responsible for your actions.
What is your proudest personal moment?
This was probably the toughest question for me. Thinking back, everything that I have been allowed to achieve has been to make life better for them—for us.
What advice do you have for single mommas juggling a career with raising kids?
- As a single parent, I believe it is important to lead by example. I believe it is important to model the types of relationships that you would like to see them engaged in—healthy relationships (platonic or otherwise).
- Lead a life of balance. (I probably haven’t done that real well. Being a single parent and working with kids affords me the opportunity to spend an enormous amount of time with young people. That actually is my “happy place.” I tend not to engage in a lot of adult-only settings.) Make sure you are striving to excel in every area of life—spiritual, mental, emotional, financial, etc. and that you don’t isolate or separate yourself from other adults.
- Establish priorities. Instill a spiritual foundation. We often teach them to pray for situations around the world and forget to train them make their prayers personal. Teach your children to pray for themselves, to pray for each other, and to pray for you as their parent. Make sure they know that family is important. Make sure that your children support each other. When scheduling days off work, understand that “mental health days” are important, but attending school programs, conferences, and field trips are too.
- Teach your children to stay the course. There will days when you feel like giving up, but know that brighter days are ahead.
- Planning is important. My weekly schedule is hectic, and no two weeks are the same. I have everything in my planner (appointments, performances, church functions, deadlines, sporting events, social outings, etc.). Plan at least one evening each week where there is not an activity. It gives you an opportunity to rest, and it helps to promote wellness for your family. Budgeting is a part of planning, too. Try to make sure funds are available to enjoy some of life’s pleasures.
- Teach your children gratitude. Make sure they are always grateful.
- Find a village. Have a group of people that support you. Everyone’s village is different. My village rocks!
What’s next for Theris Johnson?
As I approach retirement eligibility and empty nesting very soon, the thoughts are quite unnerving. I’m not frightened, however, a level of anxiety is starting to creep in. I’ve been a parent my entire adult life, meaning I’ve always had something to do and someone to be responsible for. I’m trying some new things right now. Maybe this will be a time to enhance some skills that I don’t use as much. I have also picked up a few hobbies that I’m passionate about. Prayerfully one of those will lead to my next career move. I believe that God has something greater for me in regards to my professional and personal life. I know that he is preparing me for the roads that lie ahead. All in all, I want to keep growing and keep learning so that I can be the best me that I can be.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Being a mom on a good day is hard. There are countless days and scenarios where I wonder if I am getting this right. Having more than one child can be challenging. The challenges are not always financial. For me, just raising siblings is a challenge because I don’t have any. Don’t get me wrong, they are very fond of each other, but on the days that they don’t love each other as much, it can make a few minutes seem like a lifetime. Those sibling discussions about borrowing clothes, shoes, and accessories can be something. (Or is it really the lack of the discussion prior to borrowing?) Anyway, that was all new to me.
There are tons of single mommas that you could have chosen. I consider it an honor that you chose to feature me. I’m joining the ranks of some awesome mommas in the community, and I appreciate what each of them do to make the world a better place.