Cara Johnson: from teacher to after-school coordinator to Stanford

photo by Sarai Cornejo

by Pamela Tapia

Cara Johnson sports a brand new black and orange feather braided into her hair — the school colors for McClymonds. But she won’t be back at Mack next year.

“This was very difficult, every step of the way. I felt guilty. I was questioning if it was the right move, but it’s happening,” said Johnson, 27, who will be at Stanford next year, pursuing a masters in education. She plans to focus on non-profit administration.

From Missouri, she  graduated from Washington University at St. Louis with a degree in English, and minor in studio art. She moved to Oakland, two months before accepting a job at EXCEL, a small school which is now McClymonds.

After teaching English at EXCEL for three years (note: she flunked this reporter in sophomore English), she decided  to try something new.  She stepped in as Mack’s community programs director for Alternatives in Action. It was the right decision: she enjoyed engaging students, acting more like a coach, guide and cheerleader in helping them develop leadership skills.

Her greatest challenge, as a 5-foot tall educator,was breaking up a fight between two 200-pound, 6-foot tall sophomores. “It was absurd,” she recalls, “but I had to try.”

Students enjoyed her creativity, enthusiasm, energy and of course, her sense of style as evidenced by by the feather in her hair. Her legacy, she says, was to bring Google docs and gmail to Mack. Her boss — Franklin Hysten — will fill in while they search for a replacement.

“It’s terrible that she won’t be able to be with us next year,” said senior Bonita Tindle. “The school will miss her.”

“The hardest part about this transition is how much I will miss the students ,” said Johnson.

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