It is always sad to lose an education champion like Mary Johnston.
As a community we so were fortunate to have her take a leadership role on so many issues. In many ways she was a pioneer for women leaders in Waterloo Region, breaking down traditional barriers with her trademark smile, laugh and tenacity. She was a mentor to many and inspired education advocates to reach their potential.
Mary served as a teacher, vice-principal and principal in schools across Waterloo, including Bearinger’s, MacGregor, Empire, Centennial, Brighton, Winston Churchill and Keatsway. Her impact is evident through the eponymous elementary school in Waterloo, Mary Johnston Public School, an honour she received upon her retirement. When she began teaching in 1950, it was in a one-room schoolhouse on Bearinger Road. By 1978, she was selected as the Outstanding Educator in Ontario.
Mary was active in the Federation of Women Teachers of Ontario, the Ontario Teachers’ Federation and the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario. She was a recipient of the Wiegand Award for Teacher Excellence; the first regional Professional Woman of the Year award; the Queen’s Silver, Golden and Diamond Anniversary Medals; and as a member of the Waterloo County Hall of Fame.
I can say from personal experience when Mary Johnston was in your corner you felt supported at all times. I feel incredibly blessed to have known her and to call her a friend.
Mary seemed happiest with children. Watching her interact with the students at her namesake school will stay with me; she loved education and will be missed by all who knew her and learned from her.