Recently we spoke with Tajuana Johnson, Instructional Coach and Restorative & College Culture Lead at Ritter Elementary School and Partnership board member. Below, Tajuana talks about her passion for education and her school and students’ success.

Tajuana Johnson has been teaching for 14 years and one of her daily reminders to her Ritter family is ‘we’re stronger together.’

You’re an instructional coach – what does that mean and how do you lead in your role at your school?

There are two important factors that help me lead within my role: building trusting relationships and setting the stage to engage all learners. As educators, we need to support the different learning styles of our scholars. I offer instructional techniques for our teachers so that they can use them in their classroom communities. As an instructional coach, I look for ways to collaborate with all our stakeholders — teachers, parents, scholars, community members, and school staff. One of my priorities is to ensure that we are professionally growing together while maintaining positive relationships. I achieve this by consistently reviewing our school’s CTA (call-to-action) goals and assisting others in achieving their professional goals. My role is to support and encourage all, and ensure we work collectively on our instructional practices to support our scholars’ academic and social growth.

Additionally, I’m passionate about providing an equitable education for all. Engagement is important to me because this is what fuels our scholars’ interest and interaction with their assignments. I encourage my peers to engage our scholars through relevant and high-interest activities to get them excited about learning and empowered to take ownership of their learning experiences.

What has been your biggest learning as a member of the Partnership’s board? 

As a board member, I’m ensuring that those around me realize their own power and potential to make and leave their own marks. We have a diverse and knowledgeable board, and the structure of the board intentionally includes teachers as board members. I feel that this gives me a unique opportunity to represent our school communities. I enjoy collaborating and articulating my narrative as an educator in a high-need school. It is always an honor to share and highlight the daily journey of educators, especially when we are representing teachers in our network. 

How do you bring the voice of fellow teachers into board discussions?

I have been teaching for 14 years, five were spent at Dolores Huerta Elementary and now I’m in my second year at Ritter Elementary. Being part of the board allows me to advocate for others. I am the voice for many who may still be trying to find their own. I am the voice for scholars, educators, and parents in our network and beyond. During our meetings, I lead with a solution-oriented and goal-driven mindset and I’m able to share my honest thoughts, best practices, successes and challenges with the entire board of directors. 

What are your hopes for your students, peers, and whole school community going into the New Year? 

At Ritter, I proudly serve as the Restorative & College Culture Lead, which means I’m responsible for leading the culture team in planning and implementing restorative community practices and college-completion knowledge to enhance our school culture for independent learners. A couple of exciting things that we recently accomplished were the launch of the Partnership’s College Compass and our first college awareness fair. With the College Compass, our scholars and families are able to review their academic progress and future plans for college. Through the college awareness fair, we were able to introduce the different programs and college opportunities offered to scholars. This was particularly impactful because our scholars felt that college was no longer a distant dream, but a reality for them. It was an engaging event for our entire Ritter family. My hope is to continue to develop a “college completion for all” mindset among our staff, scholars, and parents. And create a culture of independent learning so our students feel successful. I always say and remind people that ‘we’re stronger together’ and we should make a ‘mark’ on our students to build them to become successful agents of social change and academic success.

Editor’s note: Blanca Pelayo, a teacher at Sunrise Elementary School, also serves on the Partnership board.