Marquita Johnson looked out over the sea of teachers in the Humble Civic Center audience and said pointedly, “Because of you guys, I can stand here and say I beat the odds.”

Johnson is a single mom who drives daily from her home in Galveston to Lone Star College-Kingwood, a two-hour commute.

“Due to my dedication, determination and faith, I’ve never considered my commute an obstacle or challenge,” she told more than 70 teachers honored at the Humble Civic Center during the Lake Houston Chamber’s annual Teachers of the Year Luncheon March 26.

“Education was not important in my household when I was growing up,” Johnson said, “but I’ve always wanted an education. Fortunately, I met some awesome teachers who believe in me, supported me and encouraged me to continue on my path.”

Johnson’s “path” will end – or continue – soon. She’s a non-traditional student in the dental hygiene program at Lone Star and is enrolled in a dual dental-hygiene program at Texas Women’s University. She graduates this May with a bachelor of science degree in dental hygiene.

Johnson’s journey began just before Hurricane Harvey when she attended the college’s mandatory “Steps for Success” meeting in Kingwood. That same night, the bridge to Galveston was closed and Johnson and her 11-year-old daughter, who’d traveled with her, found themselves homeless in Kingwood. They ended up living in Houston for a week with a former boss.

“We learned that, even with challenges, never give up,” Johnson said.

The challenges included returning to a destroyed home with no electricity. Johnson charged her phone at the local Kroger mainly so she could keep in touch with the dental hygiene program.

“Even in those hard times, the opportunity for getting into this program meant a lot for me,” she said. “I knew I couldn’t give up because my daughter was watching every moment of this challenging situation.”

The dental hygiene department is like family to Johnson and her daughter now. She credits her teachers for support and considers them as mentors and family. She considers her classmates as brothers and sisters.

“I’m so lucky to be surrounded with this much positivity, love and support,” Johnson said. “My determination starts with the teachers and how they’ve made an impact on my life and education.”

By not giving up and staying in school, Johnson has overcome many struggles. Her education and degree give her the opportunity to change situations she’s had to deal with and given her and her daughter better opportunities.

“The job of a teacher is more than being in a classroom,” Johnson told the Lake Houston teachers. “The job is never done. They work around the clock. They believe each student has something special that can be built upon. For that, I say thank you to all teachers. You are truly appreciated.”

These Humble ISD teachers, one from each elementary, middle and high school, were honored by the Lake Houston Chamber as Teachers of the Year. Photos by Tom Broad

Each honored teacher was brought to the civic center stage, introduced and received a commemorative chamber plaque plus citations from Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle and Houston City Councilmember Dave Martin.

The next chamber luncheon, the State of the Lake Houston Area, will feature a panel of representatives from all sectors of Lake Houston, including business, infrastructure, transportation, education, growth, development and more. The luncheon is scheduled for Thursday, April 18, 11:30 a.m. at Walden Country Club. Register at lakehouston.org.

Honored teachers include:

Holy Trinity Episcopal School
Marlece Davis Laura Yarbrough

Humble Christian School
Elementary School: Cynthia Berry
High School: Alicia Coleman

Humble Independent School District
Atascocita Springs Elementary: Mindy Corley
Bear Branch Elementary: Michele Galindo
Deerwood Elementary: Danielle Cantu
Eagle Springs Elementary: Heather Cole
Elm Grove Elementary: Anita McKeague
Fall Creek Elementary: Allison Janes
Foster Elementary: Pollyanna Halling
Greentree Elementary: Summer McKee
Groves Elementary: Amanda Villasana
Hidden Hollow Elementary: Monica Segura-Lopez
Humble Elementary: Gwen Lopez
Jack Fields Elementary: Andreen McKay
Lakeland Elementary: Whitney Johnson
Lakeshore Elementary: Laura Pechal
Maplebrook Elementary: Lisa Sonnier
North Belt Elementary: Hilda Mendoza
Oak Forest Elementary: Tiffany Curtis
Oaks Elementary: Chelsea St. Andre
Park Lakes Elementary: Mona Getz
Pine Forest Elementary: Lindsey Herbert
Ridge Creek Elementary: Candace Welch
River Pines Elementary: Anais Velasco
Shadow Forest Elementary: Becky Endtricht
Summerwood Elementary: Robbie Morrow
Timbers Elementary: Kari Schellinger
Whispering Pines Elementary: Francesca Rathke
Willow Creek Elementary: Pamela Smith
Woodland Hills Elementary: Benji Adams
Atascocita Middle: Tyler Pink
Creekwood Middle: Marlo Lantier
Humble Middle: Phyllis Slack
Kingwood Middle: Jessica Eisterhold
Riverwood Middle: Michael Blayney
Ross Sterling Middle: Sarah Hill
Timberwood Middle: Cinthia Ureta
West Lake Middle: Alyssa Lovell
Woodcreek Middle: Sonya Wright
Atascocita High: Justin Vincent
Humble High: Madalyn Oloya
Kingwood High: Michelle Walker
Kingwood Park High: Kristen Lynam
Summer Creek High: Daniel Porter
Quest Early College High School: Mishka Douglas
Career & Technology Ed. Center: Joe Paneitz
Community Learning Center : Marilyn Marcantel

Lone Star College- Kingwood
Jennifer Chiotti
Chris Davis
Todd Miller

Rhodes School for The Performing Arts
RSPA Humble: Shamatha Jackson
RSPA Channelview: Cathy Sylvester
RSPA Northwest: Glenn Ryan

Spring ISD
Anderson Elementary: Cheryl Wilson
Booker Elementary: Jennifer Walker
Burchett Elementary: Kimberly Lewis
Cooper Elementary: Sarah Sanford
Hirsch Elementary: Aracely Ramirez
Jenkins Elementary: Patricia Rivera
Marshall Elementary: Michelle Pavlik
McNabb Elementary: Shatoya White
Northgate Crossing Elementary: Tamiko Stewart
Salyers Elementary: Nils Taft
Smith Elementary: Dorris Pauley
Winship Elementary: Rachel Castillo
Bailey Middle School: Renee McNeely
Duiett Middle School: Michael Eatmon
Twin Creeks Middle School: Eboni Jenerette
Dekaney High School: Kandra Gunter
Spring High School: Albert Brooks
Wunsche High School: Raedawn Jiles

St. Mary Magdalene Catholic School
3rd Grade Teacher: April Dandridge
2nd Grade teacher: Rebecca Amstutz
8th Grade Social Science Teacher: Steve Chambers

Tom Broad
Author: Tom BroadEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Columnist
Besides being a proud graduate of The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and, therefore, a Cornhusker, I am retired from Memorial Hermann. I am a correspondent and columnist for Lake Houston's hometown paper, The Tribune, as well as a director of the Lake Houston Redevelopment Corporation, a member of the board of the Humble Area Assistance Ministries, and Volunteer Extraordinaire for the Lake Houston Area Chamber.