Voices from the Field: Promoting Father Engagement, Interview with Randy Johnson (Pop-Pop)

Randy Johnson and grandson

Randy Johnson is a father and grandfather who was born into a large close-knit family. After graduating from high school, he attended Widener University before serving in the Army for four years. Randy worked in the power generation field for twenty years. He has been married to his childhood sweetheart for over thirty years and they have three children and one grandchild. Randy is known as Pop-Pop to his grandson, and they were featured in episode eight of the Preschool During the Pandemic video series developed by the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center.

ED: What would you say to your younger self when reflecting on experiences with your children when they were young?

Don’t allow anything to get in the way of spending time with your children and being involved in their education. When my children were young I worked shifts while my wife was home with them. My memories of how my parents sacrificed so that their children could have opportunities carried over with my family. Every moment that I had a chance I spent time with my children and still get compliments on how they are making positive impacts in the world.

ED: Do you have any favorite memories of a child or grandchild during their early years?

I have millions of memories, but one that stands out is taking my children to a neighborhood school yard to play games. We started playing hide and seek and they went to hide as I counted to one hundred. I found my daughters but could not find my son anywhere. We looked for him for over an hour, and I thought that maybe he had gone home. When we got home he was there waiting and said: You didn’t come and get me dad, so I came home. We still laugh and joke about it to this day. My grandson loves bike riding with Pop-Pop. I am teaching him how to ride his bike independently.

ED: Do you see any barriers for fathers and grandfathers in engaging in their children’s education?

Personally, I do not see any barriers. Children are precious and need the best start to give them better opportunities in the future. My oldest son is diagnosed with Down syndrome. The first couple of years I was in denial. We agreed to raise him as a normal child and did experience some challenges as schools became more integrated when he attended middle school. He teaches me more than I teach him.

ED: What suggestions do you have for early education professionals and educators who want to engage more fathers and grandfathers?

Early education professionals and educators could have special fathers or grandfathers days and be more inviting. They could also find out if a child’s father or grandfather is active in their life and use that as a starting point to move forward.

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