Recent alum already having a big impact


Valentine’s Day was extra special for Kiana Carr Johnson this year. She received an extra special valentine as she was named teacher of the year at Betty & Jean Schmalz Elementary School in Katy, Texas.

“Teachers felt like I was the best teacher and had done the best work,” said Carr Johnson, 27, a Grambling State University alumna who attributes her classroom success to what she learned at her alma mater.

One of 53 teachers at her school, and one of eight finalists for the special recognition, Carr Johnson was surprised by the school’s principal and assistant principal when they showed up in her classroom with a bouquet of flowers. “In the middle of teaching I found out I had won the award for teacher of the year,” she recalled. “I was extremely surprised…”

Carr Johnson was born in Germany. Her father, Marvin Carr, served in the military for most of her childhood, and the family moved constantly. She received her bachelor’s in elementary education at GSU then stayed in Grambling to earn a master’s in curriculum and instruction.

Carr Johnson has been teaching at Schmalz Elementary School for only two years and she has made a tremendous impact on the children and community according to her school’s principal, faculty and staff.

“Kiana was an outstanding teacher candidate while completing her undergraduate program at Grambling State University in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction,” said Loretta Walton Jaggers, professor of education at GSU. “Specifically, she was a very conscientious student who always demonstrated outstanding knowledge, skills and dispositions.”

In Carr Johnson’s diverse classroom of 21 students, she tailors instruction for individual student needs in all subject areas, usually focusing lessons for seven to 10 minutes at a time. “My goals for my students are for them to be highly motivated and confident, to improve their reading skills, because reading is the foundation in all subjects …,” said Carr Johnson.

She said she uses what she learned at GSU about child development, reading practices, children’s literature and technology. During a telephone interview, Carr Johnson said many of her college professors taught beyond the book, making it easier to understand the complex world of education.

“My professors were very knowledgeable and encouraged me to learn as much as I could,” she said. “My professors supported my growth and gave me positive feedback throughout my journey.”  

Carr Johnson said having the opportunity to work closely with future college students in the LA Gear UP program, as a counselor was invaluable. The LA Gear Up Program is a grant-funded program focused on giving middle school and high school students hands-on experiences much like those experienced by college students. Students stay on the GSU campus during the summer, take college classes, and visit the financial aid office, among other things. 

“She demonstrated very excellent skills and abilities as she worked with all staff members during the planning and implementation of the GSU LA GEAR Summer Learning Camps,” recalled Jaggers. “She was always admired by her students and colleagues that she worked with at the on-site partnership school where she was completing her field-based experiences.”

 Carr Johnson has been teaching for more than five years, and she plans to become a college reading professor. 

Carr Johnson, who is married to Jonathan Johnson, a Grambling State University alumnus working on a master’s in psychology at Prairie View A&M in Texas, has won many awards, including another teacher of the year award in 2010 at Carver Elementary in Arcadia. 

“I reached a goal and I have set more goals for myself,” said Carr Johnson, noting that she is not satisfied because her work has been recognized. “All of my goals are geared toward my students and how I impact them. Receiving this award has made me feel more confident about my teaching.” 

Jaggers is as proud as a mother: “This accomplishment truly reflects her exemplary skills, talents, hard work, professional attitude and the commitment that she consistently demonstrates toward promoting academic excellence.”