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'True blessing': Anne Arundel teacher turns home into free salon for students

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Posted at 6:51 PM, Aug 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-25 19:55:20-04

ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, Md. — Melissa Johnson Warner, a teacher, turned her living room into a makeshift salon for students at MacArthur Middle School in Anne Arundel County this summer.

It started out as an idea because it was a way to give back to the community outside of the classroom — give students free hairstyles.

"All I heard was, 'let's help the students who can't afford it,' and I was like, 'let's go," Johnson Warner said. "It makes me feel good because I can do something to give back other than teaching. I can really say I helped that student."

In her Fort Meade classroom, Johnson Warner is a behavioral specialist, a special needs educator.

One strand at a time, she's been donating her time helping Rob's Barbershop Community Foundation — a nonprofit that helps students with free hairstyles.

"Ms. Johnson called, and my first question was, how much do you charge? She said it's free," said parent Monica Dorsey. "I said, 'do I have to bring the hair? and she said 'no, I provide the hair and I said, 'OK, I'm ready."

Dorsey said the makeshift hairstylist couldn't have come at a better time.

Ebony, a 12-year-old and one of her two adopted children, had her hair styled by Johnson Warner.

"It's important for me to give Ebony confidence," Dorsey said. "She lacks a lot of that, and plus, I don't know how to braid, so it was a true blessing to have her doing this. I think it's really kind of her, especially knowing how much it cost, doing all this."

Johnson Warner is creating a connection outside of the classroom with her students.

When they have the funding, they do hair for students in their school salon, but this setting is a little more intimate.

"I can go up to a student even they are having a rough day and say, 'Honey is everything OK' and they're like I know this person. This is not just Miss Johnson Warner a teacher, this is the lady that did my hair. I sat in her home. She laughed with me," Johnson Warner said.

Now, Johnson Warner has the best of both worlds. Her first passion growing up in Trinidad was braiding, ever since she was 16.

Her other passion is the classroom.

She said she always wanted to be a teacher. She moved to the U.S. with her family in 2005 and she's been teaching since 2012.

"Seeing the parents smile and the students saying, 'Ms. Johnson I want to thank you,' because a lot of students don't know that teachers have other talents," Johnson Warner said.

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