Johnson returns home to FSSD, takes helm at Poplar Grove Middle
By Kerri Bartlett, Assistant Editor
Anthony Johnson stands with the Poplar Grove Middle School cheerleaders. Johnson recently became principal of the school.
Life-long Franklin resident Dr. Anthony Johnson, 38, feels like he is back home as the new principal of Poplar Grove Middle School.
Johnson grew up as a student in the Franklin Special School District, graduated from Franklin High School in 1994 and has served as an educator in the city and county school systems for 12 years.
“I’ve come full circle in three different facets—as student, teacher and administrator,” Johnson said. “It feels like home.”
|Dr. Anthony Johnson, new principal of PGMS, grew up attending FSSD schools. Kerri Bartlett
At an early age, Brenda Hester made a lasting impression on Johnson as a student, which has carried him throughout his career by instilling a mindset of excellence and hard work. Then a teacher at Franklin Junior High School, Hester only accepted Johnson’s best effort.
“If an assignment wasn’t completed to the best of my ability, I’d have to redo it,” he said.
Now, Dr. Hester serves as a school counselor at Freedom Middle School.
Johnson said that the school community at PGMS possesses a close-knit community feel—just like what he experienced growing up in FSSD and in Franklin.
As a young student at Johnson Elementary School in FSSD, he didn’t realize that the school was named for his great grandfather, Charles Johnson, one of the first African American medical doctors in the Franklin community.
“I remember people in my family talking about it, but as a child, I didn’t completely understand,” Johnson said. It wasn’t until he was in high school that he understood the school’s namesake.
Now as a part of FSSD, Johnson’s goal is to lead Poplar Grove Middle School to continued success.
“Because Poplar Grove has a rich history of succeeding, it is my goal to take us even a bit higher,” Johnson said. “There is always room for growth.”
“I believe that all kids can learn if you use the right resources and strategies to meet individual learning styles,” he said.
When he accepted jobs related to education as a young man, Johnson discovered that he had a knack for working with children and in leadership roles.
“My mentors seemed to see something in me and always encouraged me to take opportunities to motivate and teach young people,” Johnson said.
He began as a Social Studies teacher in FSSD, and then served as an assistant principal at Heritage Elementary School in Williamson County, where he held the position for five years before taking his first principal position at Poplar Grove.
Seeing children succeed gives Johnson purpose and keeps him coming back each day.
“Seeing kids who really struggle and then seeing them get it and learn and thrive and grow is the best thing a person can attest to,” Johnson said. “Seeing them reach their goals brings joy to my heart.”
Johnson’s goal is to become even more student-focused and to provide extracurricular activities including various clubs for the students at PGMS.
“It’s important to offer something for every child,” he said. “There are some kids that won’t touch a football, so there are other creative interests that need to be tapped into. More outlets only increase the rate of success in school.
“Our staff—hand’s down—is one of the hardest working groups of teachers around,” Johnson said.
“They ensure that children succeed. It makes my job easier when you have people working that hard.”
“I feel like I have had a lot of people in my life who have supported me as a citizen of Franklin and as an African American man, which has given me hope, drive and inspiration.”
Johnson said that his motto is “excellence in teaching and learning. Everyday matters. What you do today will dictate what happens tomorrow.”
Poplar Grove School Facts
Poplar Grove School’s (elementary and middle located in the same building) unique history began in July 2000 when it opened as a preschool through eighth-grade school of choice with a balanced calendar schedule with nine weeks in school and three weeks off. These two fundamental differences from the other six schools were intended to draw students from all FSSD schools.
However, in 2011-2012, the FSSD Board of Education saw the benefits of merging the schools into one calendar. Also, equity rezoning was implemented at PGS last school year in an effort to balance the FSSD student population. Enrollment is currently about 893 students Pre-K through eighth grade.
Posted on: 12/19/2013