Washington DC's Longest-Serving Teachers Reflect on Over Four Decades of Education

Washington DC’s Longest-Serving Teachers Reflect on Over Four Decades of Education

DEBARYLIFE –  Over forty years have passed since Antoinette Johnson and Benjamin Sands first entered Coolidge Senior High School in Northwest Washington, D.C.

Both instructors attended public schools in Washington, D.C., and grew up in the District. Forty-one years ago, Sands joined the Coolidge band director and music department after earning his degree from Howard University.

Because of his young age, other teachers in the lunch room on his first day of teaching mistook him for a pupil.

“Teachers are expected to walk to the front of the line, they claimed. The woman told me that all pupils were expected to go to the back when I moved to the front of the line, Sands recalled. “And somebody said, ‘No, he’s a new music teacher!'”

Sands is not the instructor at the school with the longest tenure, despite the fact that 41 years may seem like a long time. Johnson, a 44-year Coolidge teacher, is the rightful owner of that distinction. Before that, she worked as a teacher at Ballou High School for a single year.

Washington DC's Longest-Serving Teachers Reflect on Over Four Decades of Education (1)

She has been the longest-serving full-time D.C. public school teacher, and DCPS chancellor Lewis Ferebee recently recognized her for her service.

Johnson claimed that the job was scary when she initially started because she was only 23 years old. Moreover, she was one of just two female Coolidge science instructors.

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“The young lady was happy to see me because she had always worked with men,” stated Johnson.

Johnson knows when she wakes up every morning that she will be greeted and hugged by a group of devoted classmates at school.

“The media makes them into some things that they’re really not,” she explained. “Most of the students here – we have a great group of students at Coolidge High School.”

Throughout his 41-year teaching career, Sands has learnt to always be himself.


Students believe that in order to succeed, they must emulate others. No,” replied Sands. They believe they will have the same difficulties as their parents had since they seen their problems. It is untrue.

Johnson advises her kids not to strive to be popular in a similar manner. Rather, she advises them to be the best versions of themselves.

“I tell my students always to not be a follower, to trust your gut instinct and to do what you feel is best and that you don’t have to try to fit in,” said Johnson.

Although Sands claims to have witnessed the greatest change in himself, they have both witnessed several changes in pupils and in the classroom.

“It is a journey and all the things that happen to you in your life, you must learn from them,” stated Johnson. “Always be open for advice.”

Johnson is eagerly anticipating the upcoming school year as her forty-fiveth year of teaching comes to an end.

“June arrives right when you think you’re exhausted. For the summer, we return home,” Johnson remarked. “You’re almost ready to go again by the time August and September roll around. You spend the summer missing them.”

According to Sands and Johnson, none of them plans to retire anytime soon.

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