PROFILE 2010: Mila Johnston

Published 5:42 pm Sunday, March 7, 2010

Mila Johnston has been a teacher, school administrator and college instructor. While she still teaches at the University of Alabama, she keeps herself busy by working with a number of community groups in Demopolis.

She works to promote events at First Baptist Church, where she and her husband, John, have been going for almost 20 years.

“I’m really involved in the missions program,” she said. “About a year ago, we reactivated it, so we’ve been trying to get people interested in missions and being missions-minded, carrying out the Great Commission, as our Lord and Savior commanded us in Matthew.

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“In addition to that, I support one of the Sunday school classes as a substitute teacher for Ms. Billie Brister, and that is the Dorcas class. They are a very active class, and they live up to the name of Dorcas; she is one who did something for the poor and the widows and those who were in need.”

She is a part of the search team that is seeking a permanent pastor for the church.

“It is a long, involved process; it’s not something that happens overnight,” she said. “We want to make sure that we connect with the man that God has chosen, and that just takes some time and patience. It has been a real education; I’ve never done that before. It’s been a real learning curve, and I have enjoyed that.”

Johnston is also a member of the Study Club of Demopolis that meets 18 times a year.

“We do study and review books,” she said. “This year, we are studying bestsellers. We also support a scholarship and give one scholarship a year. It’s a loan scholarship.

“It’s a congenial group of women who get together. Most of the time, our programs center on some kind of reading, but every once in a while, we will do a topic. One year, I did a program on finances for women.”

Johnston serves as a volunteer publicity chair for the Canebrake Players community theater.

“My husband, Johnny, is involved with that as an actor,” she said, “so this is one way that I can support him on something that he enjoys doing.”

Last year, she stretched her boundaries even further by volunteering to serve as the publicity chair for Demopolis’s annual festival, Christmas on the River.

“Jennifer Roemen, the Christmas on the River chairman, called me and asked me, and I can’t say no to Jennifer!” Johnston said. “It was late in the year, and the one who had done the publicity before had moved back in the summer, so they needed someone.

“It was a busy time of the year for me. I teach part-time at the University of Alabama as an adjunct instructor, and that’s the end of the term there, so I had a lot of projects to grade.”

Johnston got involved with publicity in general as a member of the Alabama Federation of Women’s Clubs, a statewide non-profit organization.

“I was communications chairman for several years there,” she said. “So, when we’d go to national meetings or regional meetings, I would attend the publicity sessions, so I learned a little bit about it then, and I moved on to leadership. I spent a lot of time working with Alabama Federation of Women’s Clubs, as their state leadership chairman. We are working on a big workshop that we’ll have this summer.”

Johnston has served on the AFWC board since 1982, serving most of those years as the leadership chairman.

“I enjoy getting the word out,” she said. “I guess it’s like the old joke, that there’s three forms of communication: telephone, television and tell a woman! Most of the groups I work with are non-profit, and they don’t have the money for a telephone tree, can’t afford television coverage, so they have to use the ‘tell-a-woman’! I guess I’m the ‘tell-a-woman’!”

Johnston continues teaching at the University of Alabama.

“This term, I’m teaching a leadership course on mentoring,” she said. “It’s online, but involves a lot of reading, so every two weeks, I have about 600 to 900 pages of paper to grade. It’s called a ‘W’ course at the university, and that means that 50 percent of their credit is for their writing ability.

“With texting and e-mailing, people have let grammar, punctuation, spelling and capitalization go by the wayside, so it’s a learning curve for them to rein them back in as to the proper way to write. I’ve been encouraged by their responses; they give me hope for the future!

“I also teach a consumer communications class, which is using Publisher to do newsletters and brochures,” she said. “I’ll be teaching three sections of that in the fall as well as the leadership class.”

Johnston worked at Demopolis Junior High School for five years as an assistant principal. She retired “for about two weeks” before she went to work administering a federal grant for the Brownfields Project in Perry County. She then worked for the state in different programs, such as the Reading Initiative, before the University of Alabama came calling in 2007. She had taught at the University of North Alabama earlier in her life, and enjoyed returning to a college campus.

“I enjoy helping students and giving them insights and helping them to learn how to learn,” she said. “I feel like I still have something to contribute, and it’s good to stay busy and active.”

Mila Johnston certainly stays active, working to provide publicity for local groups and events and still teaching at the university level. Her contributions to the First Baptist Church, Christmas on the River and the Study Club make her a tremendous asset to the community.