Guest post by Shana Burton
When your middle name is literally Champion, you don’t accept failure as an option. It is a creed that was instilled in retired Bibb County principal Myrtice Champion Johnson as a child, and one she lives up to today.
Johnson, who was born the eleventh of twelve children on a sprawling farm in Smithville, Georgia, has dedicated her entire adult life to championing for educators and children– first as a teacher in the Bibb County School system, then as an elementary school principal for 17 years, and now as the first elected Black president for Georgia Retired Educators Association.
She may be ending her run as president, but that doesn’t mean she will stop advocating for children and educators all over Georgia.
The theme for Myrtice Johnson’s presidency has been “Running With Champions.” More than just a theme, it’s a mission that she has charged all retired educators with joining–through increased membership, community service, and financial support of the Georgia Retired Educators Association.
However, the most important mission to her has been partnering with the Shriners Hospital for Children. This hospital for children is committed to providing care to children with neuromusculoskeletal conditions, burn injuries and certain other special healthcare needs regardless of the families’ ability to pay. The hospital assists families who have children with physical disabilities, helping them to be able to live a normal life.
“All of us may have seen or known a child who has been afflicted with one or more of these physical disabilities,” says Johnson. “As classroom teachers, we’ve always stood by our students, and I’ve asked our retired educators to continue in that stand by contributing to this cause in assisting our children in living a normal, healthy life.”
This partnership is also close to Ms. Johnson’s heart for personal reasons. At age 12, she was diagnosed with scoliosis. If left untreated, it could have caused debilitating chronic back pain, heart problems, lung problems, a crooked appearance of the back, and uneven curves. She was referred to what was then the Crippled Children Services in Atlanta, GA. They provided for her back surgery, brace, and all treatment for the year-and a-half long process, which included a nine-month confinement to bed.
“The most difficult part of the entire treatment was returning back to school where some of the students made very cruel, and painful, remarks toward me such as: “There goes that ‘sick’ Champion girl,” recalls Johnson. “These painful statements made attending school so difficult and challenging that I felt quitting school was my only option. I thank God for a strong mother who refused to allow me to give up on myself. My own physical challenges have caused me to better understand the challenges of others. I believe that, if we could save just one child from some of the cruelties and pains of this world, then our giving would not be in vain.”
It is for this reason that she chose The Shriners Children’s Hospital as the Georgia Retired Educators Association humanitarian project. The organization has already raised several thousand dollars toward this cause, but she would like to invite the public to join them in this mission to do more.
To contribute, please contact Myrtice Johnson at 478-972-9426. All contributions are tax deductible and checks can be made out directly to The Shriners Children’s Hospital.