Dr. Shirley Johnson began working for civil rights at the age of 10, inspired by the example of her father and leaders such as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers and Rosa Parks. As a marriage education instructor, Dr. Johnson today helps teens and young adults embrace what she calls “one of the greatest blessings human beings have been given.”
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Marriage Education (ME) is touching the lives of couples, families and children across the country. “I Am ME” profiles people teaching relationship, fatherhood and marriage education classes in their local communities.
“I am a better giver of resources, a more compassionate mother, a kinder sister, an understanding friend, a better listener, especially to my grand children while sharing my wishes, hopes, and dreams for them and their friends.”
Shirley Bailey Johnson, Ph.D. was given her first job walking door-to-door for voter registration campaigns at age 10 by civil right leader Medgar Evers, a close friend of her father, Samuel Bailey, then president of the Jackson, Mississippi, branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). As a teen in the 1960’s, Dr. Johnson was active in the civil rights movement. She witnessed Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “I have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C. and was jailed several times for demonstrations to desegregate public facilities.
After a long career as elementary classroom Teacher in Miami-Dade County Florida Public Schools (MDCPS) from 1970- 1988, Dr. Johnson became a Bargaining Agent for United Teachers of Dade (UTD), serving as Chief of Staff in 2001 and as UTD’s interim president in 2003-2004. Currently Johnson is Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction for Miami-Dade Public School and the NAACP Miami-Dade Branch Vice President overseeing the Youth and College Division, a position held years ago in Montgomery, Alabama by Rosa Parks, another leader Johnson knew and emulated while growing up.
Dr. Johnson is a noted educator, community activist, children advocator, author, prayer warrior and speaker for churches, radio, conferences, conventions, and retreats. She is a dedicated mother of two daughters and grandmother of four grandchildren. Dr. Johnson lives in Miami Lakes, Florida where she serves as an Elder, Sunday School Teacher, and member of the Board of Directors at New Way Fellowship International Church.
1. What led you to want to teach marriage enrichment classes?
I believe that one of the greatest blessings that human beings have been given is the institution of marriage. Marriages can only be a blessing if the two in the union understand how the institution works. Therefore, I chose to teach the enrichment classes to offer PAIRS (Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills) proven strategies and tools that will work if couples and families are willing to follow the program with validity. In my classes, I see people who want to have a healthy marriage, they just don’t know how. PAIRS is a first step to reaching their goal.
2. What are some of the unique challenges facing couples/families today?
Some unique challenges facing families today are:
- Lack of a defined family value system. What do American families value that all American can honor and respect?
- Lack of role models to emulate. There are very few healthy marriages and families that we can hold up as models, and
- Lack of effective communication skills. Everybody needs validation. Validation of spouses and family members come to pass when proper tools are used to communicate effectively.
3. How has being an instructor affected your life/family?
Being an instructor has enlarged my network of friends, colleagues, and professionals. I have also met 14-16 year old pregnant teens whose stories have made me stay up at night wondering how they will survive. I prayed and asked God to help me help them. Therefore, I am a better giver of resources, a more compassionate mother, a kinder sister, an understanding friend, a better listener, especially to my grand children while sharing my wishes, hopes, and dreams for them and their friends. I have made the Daily Temperature Reading a habit. I use it in various forms daily, on my job, with my family, and friends. What a blessing the DTR has been for my colleagues, friends, and family.
4. What are some favorite hobbies you enjoy as a couple/family?
As a family, we enjoy family vacations, family meals together, celebrations of all major holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, movies and a relaxing massage with my daughters.
5. What qualities would you like your friends/family to most admire about you?
The two qualities that I would like for my friends and family to most admire is my ability to empathize and truly accept each of them just the way God made them. Secondly, to love my family and friends unconditionally.
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