Campus Assistant Brandon Johnson leaves for local nonprofit following meaningful years at Redwood

Dani Steinberg

“My favorite aspect [of my job at Redwood was] the energy of the students. The thing is, for me, you join the job to help support the students … you’re hoping to help inspire the students, you’re hoping to help facilitate their learning, but it ends up being the other way around,” Brandon Johnson said. 

Johnson, who began his time at Redwood four years ago as a boys basketball coach and later, a campus assistant, has left his role on campus, to pursue a different side of problem-solving in education. Although he will not be interacting with students on a daily basis, Johnson’s impact will still be felt among the community since he will continue to coach the boys’ junior varsity (JV) basketball team.

Johnson has always been interested in the different aspects of education and school systems. Before coming to Redwood, he had planned to work in the district office and, when that did not pan out, he became the second campus assistant.

“A big reason I took this job [was to] get a feel for how things work on the inside and learn who all the players are, while also figuring out the good, the bad and the ugly. Having this job has allowed me to see how people slip through the cracks and where the resources stop,” Johnson said. “It let me get a feel for student needs [and] teacher needs … [And] I think all of that has been helpful to know as background knowledge [for my new job].” 

Johnson will be using the experiences he gained at Redwood to further his career in education as he joins Marin Promise Partnership, a nonprofit organization that collaborates with different schools to offer more resources to students who need extra support.

“Marin Promise Partnership is a local nonprofit that works with schools in Marin. Its ultimate goal is to close racial equity gaps and to improve student performance, from cradle to career,” Johnson said.

Johnson is looking forward to joining this organization and creating necessary change in Marin schools. However, the transition is a bitter-sweet one. 

“[This job] is a new challenge and a larger role, but I am obviously going to miss it here. [Marin Promise Partnership] is a different layer of attacking [a diverse range of behavioral] issues. Here it is nice because I can [see] a lot of progress in successful conversations with students, so [the results are] very immediate. [In this new position], I [will be able] to see if [situations] are starting to go downhill and try to intervene,” Johnson said. “[Working at the nonprofit] is going to be closer to a birds-eye view [of addressing issues in school], but hopefully by creating systems and mechanisms for [students in need of support], [problem-solving] does not have to be as [independent].”

“[Johnson] is like my friend, I treat him as my friend and I’m going to be sad to see him leave,” Ian Rothbart said.

Not only has Johnson’s friendly personality helped him meet students, but coaching JV basketball has also allowed him to develop deeper connections with his players.

“You are going to be more effective as a coach if you are building the relationship with your players at this level and are able to do it on a daily basis,” Johnson said. “[Not having a daily relationship with players] is going to be one of the tough things I am going to be transitioning to. I am not looking forward to that aspect of being more detached and only seeing [my players] during the [short] hour and forty-five minute [practices].” 

Like many basketball players, Junior Ian Rothbart built his relationship with Johnson during practice, yet Rothbart also enjoyed the time spent with Johnson throughout the school day as well.

“[Johnson] was my coach last year so we built a tight relationship. I love continuing to talk to him throughout school and I love spending time with him just socializing,” Rothbart said. 

According to Jay DeMaestri, the head coach of the varsity boys’ basketball team and a current campus assistant, those with the job title of campus assistant often do not make connections with students, however, this is not the case at Redwood. DeMaestri works alongside Johnson to support students.

“[Johnson and I] know how to communicate with each other and [him leaving] is definitely going to be a loss for everybody,” Jay DeMaestri said.

“We always try not to be the face of discipline and try to help people before they make bad decisions,” DeMaestri said. “[Johnson] is also a basketball coach both for Redwood and a local [Amatuer Athletic Union] program so a lot of these kids get to know him and myself when they’re young so there is trust [already] there.”

Johnson leaving Redwood is emotional for many students including junior Peter Dachtler, who feels that Johnson’s caring personality makes everyone’s day better.

“From the first day I met [Johnson], he was always a friendly presence around and, no matter what the situation was, no matter what was going on around him, [Johnson] was always this positive ball of light that brightened up everyone around him,” Dachtler said.

Creating connections with students throughout Redwood has not only created a safe space, but it also provided Johnson with a new support system.

“[Johnson] interacts with everyone; it feels less like talking to a teacher and more like talking to another friend,” Peter Dachtler said.

“I’ve ended up learning a lot from [the students], being inspired and supported. Even just in the last two years, I have gone through some tough things. My step dad passed away last year, and there was one student I talked to quite often who had been going through some heavy stuff themselves … [and] they gave me a card and it said something like ‘I am here for you, I know what it feels like because my dad died too.’ [A 15 or 16] year old, dealing with heavy stuff and saying she is there for me is just inspiring,” Johnson said.

Leaving behind students who Johnson has helped and who have offered him support is challenging, however, Johnson is hopeful that his new position will allow him to continue helping students from afar.

“It is hard looking those same students in the eye and telling them that you are not going to be here anymore, you sort of feel like you are letting them down and you are failing them, so that is tough,” Johnson said. “I love all of [the students], but there are a couple of kids where, if I were to see them graduate, it [would] make everything worth it.”

The Bark wishes success for Johnson in his future and looks forward to seeing him back on campus during basketball season!