Cover photo for Debra Johns's Obituary
Debra Johns Profile Photo
1951 Debra 2021

Debra Johns

May 2, 1951 — December 13, 2021

Johns, Debra Sharleen
Debra Johns Celebrated for an extraordinary life of service, compassion and caring, Debra Sharleen Johns transitioned to her heavenly home on Monday, December 13, 2021. Her family, host of friends and hundreds of former students are reeling from the loss of this larger than life presence. Debra was preceded in death by her parents, Willie Elizabeth and Hampton Charles Johns, Sr. and her brother, Hampton Charles Johns, Jr.
Miss Johns, as she was affectionately called, was a pillar of the Albuquerque, New Mexico metro community. She was an avid educator, tireless mentor, and an unwavering champion for the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program. Her passion for young people of color was unprecedented and led her to create her non-profit Rio Lightning. Miss Johns had an insightful vision and strong passion about the importance of advancing education. She founded the Saturday Science and Math Academy some 30 years ago and remained very involved until her health declined.
As a standout undergraduate student at the University of Louisiana, Miss Johns became a trailblazer early in life. Attending this particular university was just one of many forays Debra took to promote racial integration. Her activism caught the attention of a recruiter who encouraged her to attend the University of New Mexico (UNM) as an exchange graduate student. Debra excelled at UNM, achieving her master’s degree in education. She went on to spend nearly 50 years educating children in the Albuquerque Public Schools (APS). Her extensive work for children in Albuquerque included launching a chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) STEM/Robotics Program, as well as UNM Summer Enrichment camp. She not only participated in educational programs on various Native American Reservations, but she was also a staunch supporter of improving the educational opportunities available to those communities. She also partnered with Kirkland Air Force Base Tuskegee Airman International Summer Program as an advisor.
Miss Johns served the city of Albuquerque in several capacities, including as a member of the Board of Directors of the Job Corps and as an advisor to several STEM related groups. She was a strong supporter, relentless fighter, and outspoken voice whenever and wherever she saw injustices toward students and members of the African American community. Well known to many public schools, she was never too busy to support parents as they faced the challenges of the educational system. For her dedication and commitment, Debra earned many awards and accolades, however, her greatest rewards are the hundreds of students whose lives she impacted in a very positive way.
In addition to her love for education and her students, Miss Johns loved her culture and embraced that of the African Diaspora. She volunteered with organizations to assist African and Haitian immigrants assimilate into Albuquerque. Debra lovingly embraced the local international community and often requested their cuisine which she greatly enjoyed. She fervently celebrated KWANZA and used the occasion to share its history and meaning with her many friends and students.
Miss Johns is survived by: her son, Michael Lee II; her daughter-in-law, Aimee; her adopted daughter, Charnell; grandchildren, Maliyah, Myla, Miles, Kingston, Kyah, Ja’kara, and Messiah; sisters, Jerra Williams, and Wanda Frann Jones; devoted friend Micheal Lee, 1st; nieces and nephews, a host of other relatives and close friends, including Nunu Balin. Shortly before her passing Miss Johns voiced that she wanted to go home for Christmas, and she did. A true community leader, Debra impacted the lives of so many who will endeavor to cherish and carry on her legacy.
To view information or leave a condolence please visit
Daniels Family Funeral Services
1100 Coal Ave SE
Albuquerque, NM 87106

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Debra Johns, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Friday, January 7, 2022

5:00 - 8:00 pm (Mountain time)

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Funeral Service

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Starts at 12:00 pm (Mountain time)

New Hope Full Gospel Baptist Church

1901 Pennsylvania St NE, Albuquerque, NM 87110

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