Overcoming adversity

Johnson rises above to excel in the classroom


Lora Dew, Staff Writer

No one is as surprised that Kiara Johnson is teaching English then Kiara herself.

“From growing up in poverty, I knew I needed more,” said Johnson, who grew up on the northeast side of Indy and attended Pike High School. “So, I was okay with facing the obstacles on the path to success, and learning whatever I needed to, in order to live the life I imagined.”

Johnson said she graduated high school with a 1.9 GPA and had little goals or little support to accomplish goals.

I chose my career based on my basic understanding of my skills and interest,” Johnson said. “I became a teacher because at the time it seemed to make the most sense. I excelled in English.”

Johnson took the long way to become a teacher.

I had a very non-traditional route to teaching,” Johnson said. “There was not much guidance or expectation placed on me to go to college, as a result, there was not a lot of support. Even my school counselors spoke to me from a transcript perspective”.

Johnson attended an alternative school right after high school, worked at Wendy’s and even applied and got accepted to Ivy Tech Community College. This was a huge accomplishment and for that, it kept her motivated.
Johnson had a plan to transfer colleges to pursue her dreams in South Carolina to HBCU.

“I majored in Secondary English Education,” she said. “After a very successful sophomore year, I was eager to return my junior year. When I showed up on registration day, I shockingly learned my program major had dissolved. They no longer had my major.

“I was stuck with two options, transfer to another school and risk losing credits, or to change majors to English. I decided the latter. Reluctantly, I became an English major. Although at the time I was bitter and felt it was unfair, by senior year I fell in love with being an English major. It truly helped me learn how to think critically, and fall in love with the power of language and rhetoric.”

With her motivation and remaining focus through the storm, she graduated with a 3.7 GPA and one of the top five seniors of her class.  On December 5, 2012, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English. With all these accomplishments she, later on, became depressed, but still, she never gave up. She proceeded to push through her doubts and confusion and it led to her career.

“An aunt of mine reached out to a friend who recommended me as an English Teacher for Andrew J. Brown Academy,” Johnson said. “I  reluctantly attended the interview (expecting to be rejected) and informed them I was not certified. To my surprise, I became a permanent substitute for a teacher going on maternity leave, which resulted in my earning a job, and an Emergency Teaching License.”

After that, her career took off. She had multiple positions in the educator field — an assistant principal at George Washington Community High, a teaching program at the University of Indianapolis in May 2017, and an English teacher here at Ben Davis.

But what does it means to Johnson to being a good teacher?

“There are so many ways to be a good teacher,” she said. “We have a very talented staff here at Ben Davis, and our collective strengths make us a rare educational gift to the community we serve. I think of people like, Justin Faires, who shared “A Purpose-Driven Life” with me when I was his student-teacher. He taught me how to be effective through efficiency.”

Through this long journey of success, Johnson isn’t staying with us much longer. She is continuing her growth in higher positions.

”I have fallen so in love with my teaching experience, and growth that I have decided to practice what I preach to students about the importance of following your purpose. Therefore, I will be continuing my education at Ball State University in the fall,” she said. “I will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology.

“I would not have discovered my purpose if it wasn’t for the MSD of Wayne Township, the Wayne Community, Ben Davis High School students, and my talented colleagues. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your team. I hope to come back and serve in a different capacity in the future.”