By Camm Ashford
In her book, “My Other Children: Where Teachers Learn and Learners Teach–Inside and Outside the Classroom,” Eva Jo (Saddler) Johnson recounts her experiences as a special needs educator.
Investing in youth is her passion, and Johnson’s book shines a light on the relationships she’s built over the years with her beloved students.
“It started out with me keeping journals on students about what their year was like, and my experiences with them,” Johnson recalled.
Many of her special needs students struggled within the education system, while dealing with emotional problems, behavioral challenges, racial tensions and socioeconomic disparities.
But Johnson said she was determined not to become these students’ “babysitter,” but to “guide them to their strengths as they move on to graduate to independent life.”
Johnson said her life story serves as a testimonial to her dedication for this “most challenging educational area,” and to her helping special needs students “come to terms with their limitations, develop strengths, and still find a way to make a life for themselves and contribute to society.”
Now retired, Johnson moved back to Chattanooga in 2008. She is a true volunteer, working nearly as hard now as she did all those years in the classroom.
“I don’t know, I guess it is just who I am, to get out and do as much as I can for the community,” she shared.
Johnson was born in Chattanooga and raised in the College Hill Courts projects. She graduated from Howard High School, worked hard to attend college and eventually moved to Connecticut–where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Southern Connecticut State University and served many years as a teacher, with a focus on special education and alternative educational programs.
Johnson’s life has been filled with mission work, social work, church work and community outreach. She was active for many years with the National Urban League, and has received numerous awards for her activism in education, community service and human rights.
She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
“My main goal in life is inclusion, unity and diversity,” Johnson explained. “I grew up in Chattanooga at a time when people were segregated and they separated themselves. This also happens in schools. Oftentimes, special needs students are so categorized, and they separate themselves. This harms students. I suppose that’s what I wanted to get across in my book.”
Johnson has three children, and lost another in a construction accident. She has two grandsons.
She is currently working on a book called “Ponder This.”
“My Other Children: Where Teachers Learn and Learners Teach–Inside and Outside the Classroom” is available via Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Ebay and AuthorHouse.