Shirlrona "Peaches" Johnson
Shirlrona "Peaches" Johnson came to Person County with her late husband Reginald Johnson 25 years ago to provide their children a small-town upbringing. She has been a fixture in Person County schools for almost two decades. After graduating from Hillside High School in 1984, she attended UNC Chapel Hill and majored in Journalism before transferring to North Carolina Central University where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. After embarking on a robust teaching career in the 2000’s, she went back to NCCU and earned Master’s Degrees in Educational Technology and School Administration. She has been an inspiration to many Person County students over the years, including her eldest son Dwayne Johnson who followed her footsteps as a Person County educator. Her story shows us that passion and dedication can take us places we never imagined we would go.
Q) What is your career path and what are your proudest achievements?
A) I am an educator, however, I have a variety of previous work experiences. It really wasn’t until I started volunteering in the Person County School System at Helena Elementary that I began to find my passion. It was during this time that I served on the board of directors for the Person County Partnership for Children and I met Mr. Ronnie Bugnar, who was the superintendent of Person County Schools. He told me of the opportunity to lateral entry into teaching if I was interested. The rest, as they say, is history. I began teaching Exploratory Business, Keyboarding and Computer Skills at Northern Middle. I later moved to Person High where I taught Computer Applications, Game Art Design, Adobe Software programs, Digital Media and Scientific Visualization. During my time as a teacher I have been a Department Chair, Person High Teacher of the Year and earned my National Board Certification. I left the classroom to take on the role of Instructional Technology Facilitator and helped facilitate our district’s Blended Learning initiative. In my current role I am the founding principal of Person Early College for Innovation and Leadership. So far, we are in our fourth year of operation and growing. We are the result of a partnership between Person County Schools and Piedmont Community College, but we also partner with NCCU BRITE, NCSU Friday Institute, PBI Global and Wake STEM Early College. A lot of my time goes into the building of this school. I am charged with implementing its programs and growing its enrollment and reputation.
The school has three focus areas- STEM, Character/Leadership and Service Learning. We’ve started a Robotics program as part of our STEM focus, so some weekends and weeknights involve working with those students or supporting those students in that endeavor. With the Service Learning component, my team and I are heavily involved in securing partnerships and activities through which our school can provide service activities that help with needs in our local community as well as providing outreach to national and international locations. For example we have provided food and water to the Christian Help Center, money to help build a well for clean water in South Sudan, and sent food and clothing out of state to areas that have suffered natural disasters.
I love helping children reach their full potential in their endeavors. The reward is knowing that they are doing well, living a productive and happy life. If I have had some small part in any of that then I am grateful to have been of service.
Q) Why is it important that women be recognized for their foundational work in our community and our nation?
A) It is always important to recognize anyone for the contributions they make in their communities and in our world. It is especially important to recognize that which women have done because it encourages a feeling of pride and self-esteem amongst young girls. It encourages the development of self-respect but also encourages the respect others. Young girls need role models that pave the path, open doors of opportunity and offer pearls of wisdom. Being exposed to other women that have accomplished positive things in their lives and their communities lets the younger generation know, “Hey I can do that too.”
Q) What do you envision for the future of Person County?
A) I want to see Person County continue to advance and grow to be a place where people want to come live, to attract more businesses that provide more jobs for residents. I would like to see more opportunities for cultural events and continued growth and expansion of the downtown area with more venues to eat, shop and be entertained. With all the growth that I want for Person County, I still want it to keep its small-town charm and community feel.
Q) What is your advice for girls and young women who look to you as motivation?
A) Find your passion in life, keep your eyes on the prize, be dedicated to your cause, never give up on you and know that sometimes you have to encourage yourself in order to meet life’s challenges along the way.