I have to make a confession.
That first time I showed up to Tuggle Elementary to talk to Ms. D’Anntoinette Johnson about the upcoming student talent show, I asked for “Ms. Johnson, the teacher.”
When I first met Johnson, only a few weeks before, she stood up during the Marketplace at Tuggle’s Network Night requesting volunteers to help her organize and promote the upcoming event, and I took her up on her offer, unconsciously assuming she was faculty at the school. But this is the beauty of the Network and of the unique environment that Principal Teresa Ragland has fostered at her school: one that is filled with parents and regular volunteers who have integrated themselves seamlessly into the fabric of the school and are taking advantage of every opportunity, using their own skills, talents, and passions to contribute to student success.
Since that night, Johnson – a mother of four and Vice President of Membership for the Tuggle PTA – has been spending the last month nurturing her dream of organizing a talent show for the students of Carrie A Tuggle Elementary. As you might guess, one of Johnson strengths is the sense of personal responsibility and determination that characterizes her work on this project. In addition to raising four sons between the ages of 21 and 3, she is also currently working to finish her bachelor’s degree. “It has been a personal goal of mine since high school,” she says, “and I want to lead my sons by being an example to them.”
For the talent show, Johnson and others first asked students to audition and then chose 13 students to participate in 10 acts. Since then, students have been practicing after school to refine their performances and get feedback.
On Tuesday, fifth-grade students Esmerelda and Kiara are deep in discussion, meditating on the modifications they are making to their performance in the hallway outside the gym. “Our teacher suggested changing some of the moves,” says Esmerelda, “So we are practicing those new steps today.”
“We are really excited to show our talents,” says Kiara. “It’s the first time Tuggle has had a Talent Show and we are glad to be a part of that.”
While Johnson stands out as the lead on planning for the talent show, however, she acknowledges that the process has been a group effort.
I am so overwhelmed by the number of people who want to help,” she says. “Having our community contribute means they have a real interest in this event, and in our school, in our students. It is a really great feeling.”
During the Marketplace – a dedicated part of the Network space during which members can make an offer or request, and people make exchanges in real time – Johnson’s request was met with an extremely positive response. Many people, like Tuggle alum Denzel Plump, offered to participate in the event itself as a judge.
The Tuggle Talent show will take place this coming Friday at 4:30pm. Judges will include Plump; Donnell Humes from State Farm; Ed Community Partnerships Director Marshall Pollard; Cynthia Northorp, Tuggle faculty; and Birmingham City Councilor Lashunda Scales. Tickets for students are $2 in advance and $3 at the door; tickets for adults are $5 and $7, respectively.
“I wanted to give students a opportunity to show off their talents and receive positive praise,” says parent D’Anntoinette Johnson. “I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a long, long time, so when I got the green light, I ran with it.”