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DeAnda ES teacher shares secrets behind 50+ years in the classroom

2014 March 13
by HISD Communications

In this week’s I am HISD, which features district students, graduates, employees, and other team members, the district’s current longest-serving employee, DeAnda Elementary School teacher Dr. Johnnie Carter, talks about some of the biggest changes she’s seen in education over the past 54 years, which former superintendent spurred her to reach higher professionally, and what keeps her coming back to the classroom.

You were first hired back in November of 1959, when Eisenhower was president, gas only cost about 25 cents a gallon, and Alaska and Hawai’i had just been admitted to the union. I imagine you’ve seen some pretty big changes in education since that time. Which ones have made you the proudest to be a part of HISD?

Dr. Johnnie Carter

One thing is that schools were segregated when I started and there was a lot of push toward desegregation. There were people at the time in leadership positions willing to work cooperatively to integrate schools in a peaceful manner and to use educational programs as a basis. If I remember correctly, that was when magnet schools began to pop up.

A lot of people were not willing to change, but that the district did have a plan in mind that would offer something to all groups made it easier for people to accept it. Although the courts have long since settled it, the district continues to put a focus on diversity and offer the very best education to all children. Administrators look at what’s going on in society and the economy, and the ills that are occurring, and strive to rectify those things through school programs.

Right now, you teach fourth-graders at DeAnda Elementary School on Houston’s southeast side. Have you always taught that age group in that area?

No. I’ve been at DeAnda since it opened, but I started out with fourth-graders at the old Gregory on Wilson, one of the oldest black schools in the city. That became Gregory-Lincoln Educational Center, and later the Black Heritage Museum. I was there for 10 years.

After that, I taught at Burbank Elementary. That was during the “crossover,” when black teachers went to white schools and white teachers went to black ones. Back then, a lot of students’ needs were addressed at particular schools, rather than at the home campus, so when I first went to Burbank, I was teaching a reading clinic, and students were bused in from the surrounding schools.

I met (former superintendent of schools) Dr. Kaye Stripling at Burbank and she let me know that I needed to go further with my career. There was a program called Teacher Corps at the time, which was similar to Teach for America, and she encouraged me to apply for a job with the project, so I did. I worked with Roosevelt and Burbank elementaries through that, as well as Burbank Middle School and Sam Houston High School. I was also responsible for four interns from the University of Houston. Later, I worked with Ann Patterson at West University Elementary School and became a counselor.

What’s been your favorite subject to teach over the years?

Well, I’m not sure it really has to do with teaching. When I went back to school and earned my doctorate, my focus changed. Now, I concentrate more on policy and teaching philosophies, and how those things affect schools. With all the testing, it’s sometimes hard to look ahead, but I’m really big on being able to take the long view, and making sure kids learn the things they need to succeed, rather than just teaching to the test.

You recently marked your 54th anniversary with the district. How do you keep up with the young people in your classes and all of the technological advances in your profession?

I guess I have learned some way to get around that. I do the necessary and I get it done, but I am a very interactive and perceptive person, and I’ve found I can get more from people face to face. People will put things in an email that they won’t say to you face to face, and I don’t like that. I want to be able to ask clarifying questions.

Technology is wonderful, but if students can’t master the basics, how can they do anything requiring higher order thinking on a computer? You have to bring the knowledge to the computer.

After teaching for so long, what keeps you coming back to the classroom?

First of all, a feeling of security. I think I know what it takes to teach. No matter which movement is in vogue, the pendulum eventually swings back and forth. I know enough about that to be able to mediate the contradictions.

Do you ever plan to retire?

I never think about it. Work has always been a part of my life. I see people I worked with retire and come back as subs, and I don’t see the advantage in it. I prepared for this as a career. Why leave it if I like it and it continues to be satisfying?

If you know a graduate, student, employee, or other member of Team HISD who should be featured here, please email us at
9 Responses leave one →
  1. Irma Galloway permalink
    March 14, 2014

    Dr. Johnnie Carter,

    CONGRATULATIONS on your 50+ years with HISD. You are a jewel that God has placed in the Houston Independent School District to teach and lead our children. May He keep you doing what you do best; teaching children, helping them grow, and assisting them in becoming productive citizens.

    Dr. Irma Galloway

  2. Sherian Scott permalink
    March 14, 2014

    When I saw that Dr. Carter has been teaching for 53 years,I was so very shocked but extremely pleased to read about such an awesome and amazing woman. I agree with her about seeing others retire, and then they return back to the classroom to sub or work else where. Dr. Carter, you are indeed an inspiration to me to continue my 34 year journey of teaching/working. I have been truly blessed by reading about your educational journey. May you have many many more years to enrich the lives of our future adults.

    Mrs. Sherian Scott

  3. Lynn Hollingsworth permalink
    March 14, 2014

    You inspire me, Dr. Carter. Thank you.

  4. Rosetta Smith permalink
    March 15, 2014

    Hi Dr. Johnnie Carter! I have been asking about you for many years, and now I have an answer. I will never forget you at Burbank, helping me thru a difficult illness. I was able to continue working until 1997 at Burbank. I am very proud of your accomplishments over the last 50 yrs. When you do decide to retire, call me and I will cook your favorite meal. I do remember what it is .

  5. Ivi Johnson-Brown permalink
    March 17, 2014

    Dr. Carter,

    I just wanted to say my friend you are a diamond! I am so grateful that I had the privilege of working with you at West U! You have taught me so much about the field of education. The last time I saw you was at a writers’ workshop and it was truly awesome! Congratulations and may you continue to share your knowledge with children and educators. Love and big hugs my dear friend!


    Ivi Johnson-Brown

  6. Johnie A. Blackwell II permalink
    March 22, 2014

    Wow! You were my 4th grade teacher at Gregory. You were an inspiration then and even more so now. I’m teaching in HISD now and have been for the last 20 years or so. Keep on keeping on. I would love to visit you before school is out.

  7. Mickey Moffett, Jr. permalink
    November 9, 2014

    Dr. Carter,

    I have recently joined the district as a new, first-year teacher, and it has been a pure joy to be a part of several break out groups headed by such an elite educator as yourself! I have enjoyed you sharing your wisdom and pray that I can come to my students with the enthusiasm and passion for disseminating knowledge as you have.

  8. edjeana grant permalink
    November 17, 2014

    Dr.Carter, You are an inspiration to us all.

  9. Elyse Rouzan permalink
    December 15, 2016

    Congratulations on your awesome career!.

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