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By Julian Peeples

There will be an educator on stage when the winner of the 2022 Mrs. American pageant is crowned in August, and Elk Grove Education Association member Karen Johnson has a good feeling that she’ll be the one wearing the tiara.

Johnson earned a spot in the national competition by winning the 2022 Mrs. California American pageant, which was held in Bakersfield in early June. The recently retired second grade teacher is honored to represent educators in Las Vegas.

Mrs. California American Karen Johnson

“I’m so excited to be competing for Mrs. American,” says Johnson, who won the spot in the national pageant on her fifth try. “Finally hearing my name called as Mrs. California, I was literally jumping up and down on stage!”

The Mrs. American Pageant is a beauty competition similar to Miss America that was established to honor women who are married.

The 58-year-old Johnson recently retired after 30 years teaching at nearly every elementary grade level in Elk Grove Unified School District, saying that after a career in education it is “time to chase other dreams.” Soon to be a member of CTA-Retired, she plans to substitute teach and would like to enter teacher recruitment to share how rewarding it is to be an educator, she says.

Johnson’s experience competing in pageants goes back to 1985, when she was crowned Miss Black Sacramento. That was the year the Sacramento Kings basketball team moved to the capital city, and Johnson was tapped to sing the National Anthem before a home game at Arco Arena – a performance she repeated for the following 10 seasons.

Her students at Robert Fite Elementary School have supported and celebrated Johnson during her journey. Much to the delight of the school community, she arrived at school in her sash and crown on the Monday after winning Mrs. California.

“Everybody was just thrilled. The kids wanted pictures with me,” Johnson says. “It was fun picking them up and taking them around for recess in the sash and crown.”

Her message to her students that day and beyond: never give up. It’s a mantra that has inspired her as an educator and as a beauty queen.

“I had to fail first, but you take those lessons and you learn,” Johnson says. “Don’t give up. When you’re a teacher and you hit a wall, push through it. Whatever your dream is, never give up.”

Johnson says she’ll be representing for educators when she steps on stage at the Mrs. American pageant.

“I will carry you in my heart to show a shining example of who teachers are and what we can do,” Johnson says.

Follow Johnson’s Mrs. California American adventure on her Instagram at @karenmeeksjohnson. Vote for her here to help guarantee her Top 15 placement (there is a fee for each vote and proceeds go to charities including the Susan G. Komen Foundation). Voting closes Aug. 15.


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