Johnson busy as teacher and coachPublished 10:53am Tuesday, January 31, 2012 Updated 12:11pm Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Ashby teacher and coach Brenda Johnson, for many years, has made the journey from Ashby to Fergus Falls and back. She’s a fourth grade teacher and coach in the Ashby public school system and also has been part of M State – Fergus Falls women’s basketball for 20 years.
Johnson, a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Morris, also is head volleyball coach at Ashby High School. She and her husband, Terry, have two children, Vance and Emily.
Johnson is in her first year as head coach at M State after 19 years as a volunteer assistant coach for Ann Williams. She graduated from M State where she played volleyball, basketball and softball for two years.
“Two of the most influential people in my life were my parents,” said Johnson. “My dad was a quiet individual who based his success on hard work.” The second most influential person was her mother.
“Mom was always on the go, helping others,” said Johnson. “I often thought it sure would be nice to have a mom who was home all the time, but now I know why I didn’t. That’s because she was always doing for others and that made her the most unselfish and giving person I’ve ever known.”
Johnson remembers her fourth-grade year at Underwood like it was yesterday.
“I had Mrs. Kittleson as a teacher. She was left-handed and played her guitar for us,” said Johnson. “Margo Shaeffer-Shebeck was our physical education teacher. Both loved teaching and Margo loved sports. She wore sweatsuits like the female athletes I saw on TV.”
Johnson wanted to be just like tennis players Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert.
“You put all those qualities together, into one, and that was when I said I’m going to be a teacher,” said Johnson.
She’s taught in the Ashby Public School since 1987. Earlier, Johnson taught with Mary Ann Ellis for one year in kindergarten in the Evansville School District.
“I’ve always been very fortunate to be surrounded by good people,” she said.
Johnson, while in Evansville, had the opportunity to coach girls basketball with Jack Apple. She also was cheerleader advisor, noting that cheerleaders also are excellent athletes.
In Ashby, Johnson taught first grade with Sue Krohn.
“Sue was an amazing teacher and individual,” she said. “She was so creative and a very gentle person who the students would gravitate to. I told myself that is someone I want to be like.”
Johnson, following the retirement of Kay Lundeen-Dummert, was given her own class. She’s been teaching fourth grade since 1991.
In the winter of 1991, one of Johnson’s best friends (Ann Williams) called and said, “Hey, Brenda, would you like to come and help me coach at the college?”
Johnson was excited but also had two small children at home. But her husband, Terry, knew her passion for sports. With Terry’s support and help from her parents and Terry’s parents, they made it work for 21 years.
“My kids grew up in the gym and at their grandparents’ homes,” said Johnson.
Today, Johnson still is teaching fourth grade and loving it. She’s also the Ashby summer recreation director, head volleyball coach, assistant track coach and groundskeeper for the Ashby School District.
“I wouldn’t be able to do any of the things that I do without my friends and the administration at Ashby School,” said Johnson.
Her goal as a coach at M State is to not only help make great athletes and students but make them into what she terms as “awesome individuals.”
Johnson has appreciated her teams’ success in volleyball, basketball and softball.
“More important,” she said, “are my countless friends. I’ve got a good thing going, and I’ve surrounded myself with great people.”