Jeanne Claire Johnson, 71, formerly of Oberlin, died Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, in Pomona, Calif., following a long battle with cancer.
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A resident of Ontario, Calif., Johnson was a teacher in the Detroit and Los Angeles public schools for more than 30 years until her retirement.
She taught English and mass communications to students at some of the toughest inner-city schools in the nation. She spent the bulk of her career at Jordan High School in South Central Los Angeles.
In the early 1980s, Johnson used innovation to reach out to students from communities where high crime and low educational achievement were prevalent issues. She taught students how to produce films, TV, and radio news, and encouraged them to focus their talents and find self-expression in the experience. She counseled students toward careers in the film industry and guided scores of at-risk students to college and professional career paths.
Johnson was an avid traveler who visited Israel, Egypt, Mexico, the Caribbean, and much of Europe. She was a voracious reader, an activist and member of the liberal advocacy group Move On. Johnson loved a spirited political debate, and in her later years was a frequent caller on talk radio shows. "Democracy Now!," which airs on National Public Radio, was a favorite.
Born on Dec. 28, 1940, she was the first of six children born to Harold T. and Nancy O. Johnson. Her father, Harold "Skeets" Johnson, was an Oberlin native whose paternal grandparents fled slavery in Tennessee and North Carolina respectively and met and married in Oberlin.
She graduated from Oberlin High School in 1959 and earned a bachelor of arts dergree in education from Ohio State University in 1964.
In the early 1970s, while working for the Detroit public schools, Johnson continued to pursue her own educational goals. In 1982, she earned a doctorate degree in mass communications from Wayne State University and moved to Los Angeles later the same year.
She leaves a son, Dr. Mark Strong of Silver Spring, Md.; granddaughters Zoi Walker of Los Angeles, and Ava and Laurel Strong of Silver Spring; sisters Laurie Johnson of Hayward, Calif., Mimi Johnson-Jacobs, of Oakland, Calif., and Sherry Lung of Spencer, W.Va.; and brothers Kim Johnson of Grosse Ile, Mich., and Harold "Chip" Johnson of Oakland, Calif.
Funeral services were held Monday, Dec. 10 at Draper Mortuary House in Ontario, Calif.
Published in The Oberlin News Tribune on Dec. 13, 2012