pelled from school. Yet Skinner wanted to try one last option
before he completed the expulsion paperwork.
He turned the youth over to
Johnson to see what she could
do with him in seventh grade.
He’d failed to graduate from
any of his prior classes but had
been socially promoted to the
next grade anyway.
“We had a few battles,”
Johnson recalled of the first
few months with him. “He
wouldn’t follow any rules. He
walked on tables in science
class, he encouraged other children
to rebel in gym class.”
Alvin’s home life was one
of detachment and neglect.
His single mom, Elizabeth,
had nine other children. She
worked incredibly long hours
as a fruit and vegetable picker
and then took a second job in
a bar at night. She simply was too exhausted to give her son
the attention he so desperately needed.
Alvin, his teacher quickly realized, was tough on the outside
but really was a caring individual underneath the bluster
he’d learned on the streets and hanging out in migrant labor
camps every summer with his extended family. >>
Rita Marie Johnson, Miller’s seventh grade teacher at Dan McCarty Middle
School, worked closely with him and, once she persuaded him that he
could learn, there was no stopping him.
Miller chronicled the story of
his coming out under Johnson’s
wing in his book The
Horse, published in 2022.