Livingstone College

Educational expert Anthony Johnson is grand marshal of Livingstone’s homecoming parade

SALISBURY – An award-winning educator who matriculated under the maples and oaks of Livingstone College will lead its 2017 homecoming parade.

Anthony Johnson, who teaches fourth- and fifth-grade science and social studies at Isenberg Elementary School in Salisbury, will serve as grand marshal of the homecoming parade.

The parade begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 28, from Main to Monroe streets. The lineup begins at 7:30 a.m. at Soldiers Memorial AME Zion Church at 306 N. Church St. (at the corner of Church and Liberty streets) and ends on the campus of the college.

Johnson, who recently spoke at a weekly assembly on campus, is the epitome of Livingstone College President Dr. Jimmy Jenkins’ mantra: “Taking students from where they are to where they need to be.”

The 2003 Livingstone College graduate doesn’t hesitate in affirming that “Livingstone College saved his life.”

He went from failing fourth, seventh, eighth and ninth grades to becoming Isenberg Elementary School 2016 Teacher of the Year, Rowan-Salisbury Schools 2016-2017 Teacher of the Year, and the 2017 North Carolina Southwest Regional Teacher of the Year.

Johnson, who hails from New Orleans, said after he failed ninth grade, a school counselor contacted his father and recommended he learn a vocational skill, so he dropped out of high school at age 16.

“That’s like a death sentence to a young black male,” he said.

He eventually received his GED, but life still was not without its challenges as he could only find minimum wage jobs. He filed bankruptcy, his lights were disconnected and his car was repossessed.

His life was riddled with misfortune due to the lack of education, he said, until he met a lady. Dr. Desiree Johnson, who became his wife, was the complete opposite of who he was, he said. She was in medical school and encouraged him to go to college.

He took her advice, but ended up getting suspended due to poor academic performance. The next report card, it was the same thing again. Eventually, it was suggested – as in high school – that he drop out of college. That was in the spring of 1997.

In June 1998, his mother died. Six months later, his father died, he said.

This is when he decided to make a true change in his life.

His wife was recruited to work in Rowan County. When his family relocated here, he decided to enroll at Livingstone College to major in music and fulfill his dream of becoming a band director.

At age 28, he found himself with a wife and a daughter, back in college and having to march in the band because of his major.

In order to earn community service hours, Livingstone sent him to Isenberg Elementary, where he saw black boys sitting in the back of the class asleep. When he alerted the teacher, the reply was, “Let them sleep, don’t’ wake them up,” he said.

That was a defining moment in his life. He decided to change his major from music to elementary education – and he knew why.

“When you know your ‘why,’ your ‘what’ has more impact,” he said.

He didn’t want those children to follow the same path he had taken. He wanted to teach differently. The same place he received his inspiration is the same place he now works. He teaches fourth- and fifth-grade science and social studies at Isenberg Elementary School. His classroom is called Johnsonville: The Collaborative Learning Community. He doesn’t use worksheets and there are no typical desks. He focuses on three areas: collaboration, critical thinking and citizenship.

Johnson’s goal is to teach with enthusiasm and give his students a different experience from his own in grade school. Teaching is his passion. His desire to help young people succeed has afforded him the opportunity to travel the world as an educator.

He created the Mini Funk Factory, a drumline, to engage young black males. It has grown into a diverse group and is the first drumline at a middle school in the state. His class also has a YouTube channel and launched a weather balloon into space with an Ipad attached. His students build 3D models, fly drones, publish books, make movies and operate small businesses.

He is recognized by Apple as an Apple Distinguished Educator, due in large part to his implementation of technology into the classroom that has positively influenced students. He is also a TED Innovative Educator and a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.

“Ask yourselves what is your ‘why’ everyday?” he said.

Jenkins learned of all the outstanding work Johnson was doing at Isenberg Elementary as he had a grandchild who was attending there. It was serendipity when he found out he was a Livingstone College alumni.

“Mr. Johnson is doing extraordinary work in the field of education and we are proud that he is a product of Livingstone College,” Jenkins said. “Livingstone provided the right environment for Mr. Johnson to excel.”

It’s not too late to sign up for the parade. Deadline is Monday, Oct. 23. To register online, visit For more parade information, call Anitra Neely, homecoming parade committee chair, at (704) 216-6804.

Awards will be given for best performance, best drill/dance/step team, most creative and best overall.Anthony Johnson TED 2

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