Barnett’s contribution to the Bears 

On any given day, Johnetta Barnett, more commonly known as Coach Barnett, is playing a game with her elementary students, teaching a class at her family’s Taekwondo Studio or training for a half-marathon. 

This year will be Barnett’s 20th as a health and physical education teacher at coincidentally named Barnett Shoals Elementary (BSES), marking over 30 years as an educator within Clarke County School District. 

“When I was in school, I wanted to be a physical therapist, but chemistry got me. The next step was health and physical education. I’m a kid at heart, I love being around kids, so it’s awesome,” Barnett said. 

Growing up, Barnett was disappointed by her own health and physical education teachers’ lack of effort and preparation for the class. 

“When I was in school, we had the laziest coaches. Coach — I won’t forget him. He would sit back in a chair and chew Tobacco spit it in a can and roll out the balls, and that’s it,” Barnett said.    

However, Barnett has always enjoyed running and maintaining an active lifestyle through both her work and running for leisure. Barnett estimates that she has completed over 25 marathons while living in Georgia and is adamant about competing in the PeachTree Race regardless of any obstacles in her way.  

“I had it (knee surgery) in December and the PeachTree was in July. My doctor said I couldn’t run anymore and I said, ‘Yeah right.’ Six months after I had that surgery, I got up and did the PeachTree,” Barnett said. 

While Barnett has connected with many students through her work at BSES, she also sees Barnett Taekwondo Academy as a way of connecting with children throughout the Athens community. Barnett began practicing martial arts to relieve stress, so when the owners of the previous studio that occupied that space decided to relocate, Barnett and her husband took the opportunity to open their own studio. 

“We’re now in the place that Mr. Yu started. It was called Athens Taekwondo Center, they decided to move to Watkinsville and then to the West Side (of Athens). My husband and I decided, ‘Well, let’s open up our own business.’ I ended up going to a community class on how to start your own business,” Barnett said. 

Through her work in the community, Barnett has watched her students grow up and have their own careers and families in Athens. 

“Yesterday, a parent was picking up their kid from the after school program and said ‘Tell my daughter you used to be my teacher.’ I said I was and the little girl said ‘No, you weren’t,’ and I go, ‘Your mom was a little kid at one point too,’” Barnett said. 

Though Barnett plans to retire after this school year, she wants to stay connected to the Barnett Shoals community and the Taekwondo studio.  

“I’m 68. This year as much as I don’t want to — when I first talked about it, I would cry — but I’m retiring,” Barnett said. 

Anna Schmidt

Senior Anna Schmidt is the News Editor for BluePrints Magazine. Schmidt won third place in the 2021 GSPA First Amendment Essay Contest. She hopes to major in business with an emphasis in sustainability. Her hobbies include being outside, traveling and discovering new coffee shops. Schmidt’s goals for this year include writing meaningful stories that share different perspectives from the community. She enjoys the curious, creative and supportive nature that journalism has established among the staff.

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