SIERRA VISTA — Maybe it was because both her parents were educators.
But for Connie Johnson, teaching was always in her blood.
When it came to education in Cochise County, nobody contributed more than Johnson.
A community icon, she spent more than half a century dedicating her life to children and education.
And when it was time to honor her after 45 years as a teacher and principal at General Myer Elementary School on Fort Huachuca — along with 40 years of serving on the Sierra Vista Unified School District governing board — Johnson was as humble and gracious as ever.
First elected to the school board in 1981 before resigning last March for health issues, the former president, vice president and clerk of SVUSD’s governing board was applauded at a Black Educators Day and ceremony during the board’s Feb. 23 meeting.
Johnson, who sat quietly with family and friends, deserved every clap and hurrah the crowd gave her.
She was presented with a plaque for her years of dedication and service to the school board by Cochise County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jacqui Clay.
“You provided educational leadership in Cochise County and most of all, as a mentor to many of us who felt we couldn’t go on,” said Clay. “You are the epitome of educational leadership.”
Johnson, who began teaching at General Myer Elementary School in 1969, is the co-founder of the Greater Huachuca Area Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and former president of the Greater Huachuca Area Democratic Club.
“This is just a great honor for her and her family,” said school board member Kimberly Robinson. “She has taught me so much in the year I worked with her, just listening to her wisdom. You’re an inspiration in my life.”
Johnson was also active in the early 1980s with the Arizona Education Association.
She started teaching as a sixth-grade teacher in Chipley, Florida, and retired as General Myer Elementary principal in 2014. She also taught fourth grade at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and second grade in Yuba City, California, before teaching almost three years in the Panama Canal Zone in Panama.
Johnson relocated to Fort Huachuca in 1969 and taught fourth grade at General Myer Elementary School until 1994, when she became principal.
In 1994 she was working on her administrative degree. When General Myer Elementary School’s long-time principal Ron Swackhamer suddenly passed away from a heart attack, Johnson stepped in as interim principal the rest of the year under the supervision of former Fort Huachuca School Accommodation District superintendent Clark Stevens and finished her degree.
She started the next year as principal.
“Mrs. Johnson has had a monumental impact on students, our staff and me over the years,” former General Myer School counselor Jan Camps told military.com in 2014 when Johnson retired. “I have worked with her for 25 years and no one compares to her in terms of dedicating their life to children and education.
“She is admired, respected and loved by so many people and is extremely knowledgeable in terms of education. She is truly an icon in the community, and in my opinion, business will not be the same in our school and district without her presence.”