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Teacher finds peace in retirement

May 10, 2000

Danette Goulet

COSTA MESA -- She had only planned on teaching kindergarten for a year

while she waited for a high school home economics position to become

available.

Now, 23 years later, Phyllis Johnson plans to retire from a long and

memorable career as a kindergarten teacher at Prince of Peace Christian

School in Costa Mesa.

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"This is what the Lord wanted me to do," she said. "I think kindergarten

is the most important grade because you're setting their standards and

giving them a love of school and learning."

In the process, her students have grown to love her as well. One of her

favorite stories is of 5-year-old Daniel Shammas, a student of hers this

year who walked up to her and announced, "I am going to marry you. Then I

will have a beautiful wife."

Daniel's love for his teacher is not surprising to anyone who has had

Johnson as a teacher.

Stephanie Smith is a freshman at OCC. Her memory of kindergarten is dim

after 12 years, but she does remember how it felt to be in Johnson's

class.

"I don't remember too much, but she was always very warm and caring,"

Smith said. "She loved all of her students so much, we all felt like a

family. She was very dedicated to her teaching."

That dedication has yet to wain. At 71, Johnson is retiring but will not

stop working. Her plans for retirement are to begin working as a

consultant, evaluating children's perceptual motor development.

She wants to help students become better, happier learners by helping

them correct problems with their motor skills. For instance, she said,

many students have problems with their visual perception, which affects

their ability to read and learn.

"There are not many people who do [the consulting] and there is a great

need," Johnson said.

Johnson will be working with Linda Howe, who evaluates children with

learning difficulties in Chino. Johnson will begin evaluating children at

Prince of Peace and plans to eventually take on other cases in Orange

County.

"I'm excited, but a little bit nervous," she said. "But I don't want to

run out of time."

Although she will still be around Prince of Peace, she will be missed as

a kindergarten teacher.

"She's a good teacher because she likes to teach us," said 6-year-old

Christian Meldrum. "She's a good teacher because we love her."

There will be a celebration of Johnson's career May 21 at Prince of Peace

Church, 2987 Mesa Drive, following the 10 a.m. church service.

FYI

Today is Day of the Teacher in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.

Teachers throughout the district will be honored in various ways by their

students, administration and school communities.

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