A Hop and a Jump
May 2022 Issue
By Cynthia Robinson
Photography by Mike Force Photography
When retired educator Regina Johnson first became a mother in 1983, she said she soon made a discovery about what many refer to as balancing both a career and family.
“There’s no such thing as ‘balance.’ That’s just something in books and magazines. It really does take a village,” she said of successfully having a career and raising a family. “I had Larry Johnson, the number one love of my life and wonderful father by my side. I also had other family, the schools, church community and friends—all those helping hands. Together, with the help of her “village,” she and Larry, who passed away in 2015 after years of a happy marriage, raised three sons and a daughter—eldest son Creighton, followed by son and now Brunswick Mayor Cosby two years later, then, 15 years later, son James, then daughter Gabby.
As she was growing up in her hometown of Washington, D.C., Regina’s extended family played an integral part in her formative years. “My parents really had a village. “I grew up spending summers with my grandfather Cosby in New York. He introduced us to the theatre, the subways and the boroughs. Exploration was encouraged in my family, and I wanted the same for our children.”
After toying with other ideas for her future, Regina found her true calling of being a teacher after teaching Vacation Bible School and at community events. “I changed my major to education at the beginning of my junior year of college.”
Her teaching career began in 1979 when she moved with Larry to his birthplace of Brunswick, and she started teaching kindergarten. “One of the things we work on as kindergarten teachers is helping students with their gross motor skills. That includes skipping. Well, I realized that I had never learned to skip!” She said she’ll never forget the young boy in her class who taught her how. “He’d tell me, ‘It’s just a hop and a jump, a hop and a jump.’ I learned to skip, and I can still skip,” she said, laughing.
Regina not only fell in love with teaching, but she fell in love with Brunswick, as well. “I tell people this is a wonderful place to live and play. I’m a fifth generation Washingtonian, but I felt a connection here and even convinced two of my brothers to retire here.”
Although she retired from teaching with Glynn County Schools in 2009, she continues as the Board Chairperson at Glynn Department of Family and Children Services. “Becoming involved in Family and Children Services gave me the opportunity to minister and work with the whole child and family and build resources for those families. I think teaching is a life-long experience and a gift. It is a commitment to life-long learning and life-long experiences. I don’t punch a clock now, but I want to continue giving to the community.”
She and Larry instilled that same commitment in their own children. While her relationships with them have evolved as they’ve become adults, Regina enjoys close bonds with all of them and her five grandchildren. Her son Creighton lives in Ohio, son James in Jacksonville and daughter Gabby in Atlanta. Cosby graduated from Valdosta State University before spending time working in Atlanta at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and working in the Macon office of now former United States Senator Saxby Chambliss. “Cosby said he was always going to come back to Brunswick.” So, she wasn’t surprised when he not only returned, but announced his run for mayor of Brunswick.
“The election was an exciting time. As a parent, you are aways protective, but it is joyous to see your child follow their dreams and work their plan, fall down, then get up again. I got to see the master debater that Cosby is and that he is with everyone, not just me,” she said, laughing again. Cosby won the election and was sworn in as major on Jan. 5, 2022, with Regina holding the Bible. She and Cosby remain close, even as his schedule has grown more hectic. “We have dinner together once a week. Or, I should say, we try to have dinner once a week,” Regina said with a smile.
When asked what advice she has for first time mothers or mothers-to-be, Regina said, “Don’t stress and sweat the small stuff. Take time with your child. Sing to them, dance with them, read to them, really connect with them, and be there to really listen, and even debate with them. And never be afraid to fail. You can always get back up. There will always be some outstretched hands out there to help you. Find something that lights your life, dance often, meet new people and always be kind and show respect.”
Education: Undergraduate degree in childhood education from Bowie State University; Master’s in Education from The Ohio State University; Doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Argosy University Sarasota. Also studied leadership at Georgia Southern.
It’s All in the Family: “When our daughter was in high school, she started volunteering at the hospital (Southeast Georgia Health System) in their Volunteen Program. Every day, she would come home excited. Now for a teenager, that really means something! So, she inspired my husband and me to volunteer.” The couple began volunteering in 2010, and Regina eventually became chair of the Volunteen Program. She still volunteers at the Health System. “Kristin (Doll, director of Volunteer Services) is like a member of our family.”
Sky-High Dreams: Before finding her true passion for teaching, Regina originally dreamed of being a flight attendant. “But I’m afraid of heights, so that wasn’t going to work out!”
Mother Knows Best: “We’ve always debated in our family. When I was growing up, my mother gave me a cup shaped like a little refrigerator. Any time I used any ‘spicy’ words, I had to put coins in it. I still have that cup sitting in my kitchen window!”
What Inspires Her/Makes Her Smile: “Children! They have such a sense of wonder and discovery. They love to see how things work and their laughter just lights me up! They bring absolute joy.”
Family Dinner Conversation: “We would ask our children, ‘what made you smile and what made you scratch your head?’”
Memberships: First African Baptist Church, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Georgia Retired Educators Association and Community Bible Study.