CHAMPAIGN -- A former teacher reaches a major milestone. She's celebrating her 100th birthday. Teretha Johnson was the first African-American teacher leading an integrated classroom in Champaign. She spent 40 years in the district; 20 at Bottenfield Elementary. Mayor Don Gerard is a former students. Family and friends gathered at the Champaign Public Library to celebrate the big day.
CHAMPAIGN -- A retired teacher is turning 100 years old. In 1934, she became the first African-American teacher in Champaign schools. As WCIA-3's Anthony Antoine shows us, she wanted to stop by her old school and visit one of her favorite students.
Teretha Johnson spent 40 years as a teacher, close to 20 of them at Bottenfield Elementary. Mayor Don Gerard is one of her standout students. She was his second grade teacher.
"I loved coming to school to Mrs. Johnson's class."
She's kept up with his career.
"I was coming to see the mayor, so I put my pin on."
The two shared stories, laughed and looked at old photos. But, schools were a lot different back then. They were segregated, but Mrs. Johnson changed the history books becoming the first African-American teacher to teach an integrated class.
"I enjoyed it. It was very nice. I was very well-received."
"To have a teacher of color, it was normal to us, but it was a real anomaly to the rest of the community."
Race aside, Johnson faced some of the same troubles all teachers do.
"It was kind of hard sometimes. It depends on who is in your classroom. One little knucklehead can make a mess of things."
Her students are all grown up and the building looks different. Quite a few things have changed, but she wanted to take a trip down the hallway and visit her old classroom. It brought back old memories of being a teacher.
When asked if she missed it, "No, I was glad when I retired. I was tired. It's not an easy job."
It was a special day for a special teacher.
"There is just something about Mrs. Johnson. She was one of the most popular teachers."
Teretha Johnson's birthday is in a few weeks. Mayor Gerard plans to be there to celebrate.
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