Marquis Emerging Leaders

Pamella Rena Renee Johnson

Title: Academic & Behavioral Intervention Specialist

Company: Rochester High School

Location: Rochester, WA

Education: Bachelor’s Degree in History, Minor in Elementary Education, University of Washington (2011)

Career History: Academic and Behavioral Intervention Specialist, Rochester High School, WA (2016-Present); Worked in the banking industry (25 Years)

Pamella Rena Renee Johnson, Academic & Behavioral Intervention Specialist at Rochester High School, has been recognized as a Marquis Emerging Leader for their contributions and achievements in the field of education.

Following an accomplished 25 years-long career in the banking industry, working predominantly in corporate accounts, Ms. Johnson became a paraprofessional educator and has served as an academic and behavioral intervention specialist at Rochester High School since 2016. In this role, she has utilized her communications expertise and compassion to help first-year students navigate challenges that may hinder their academic progress and create impactful changes that have resolved wage gaps between paraprofessionals and certified educators across her state of Washington. Once she became a paraeducator, Ms. Johnson instantly fell in love with the field—and has since dedicated herself to inspiring others that “it’s never too late to start” whatever journey they choose.

Ms. Johnson’s parents, who grew up in the South, instilled in her a love of education and helped her develop a passion for helping people. She was often told growing up, “If you see something [unjust], say something. If you’re changing something, make sure it’s a change for all.” She was raised to have a work ethic that helped ensure she had access to opportunities for professional growth. In addition, she learned immensely through the solid mentorship of her high school track coach and physical education teacher. Equipped with a bachelor’s degree in history, with a minor in elementary education, from the University of Washington, she made a career switch in the last decade that has allowed her to utilize the values her parents taught her fully. Over the course of her career, she has been particularly proud of her involvement with the Washington Education Association and her advocacy within her field. Finding income inequities between paraprofessionals and certified teachers, she joined the union and began advocating heavily for education professionals of all classifications to fill the wage gap between paraprofessionals and practitioners with certificates. Her ultimate goal was to secure a living wage for people in her category, most of whom were forced to work up to three jobs to afford adequate shelter, food, and other necessities.

Ms. Johnson’s work helped Washington’s Education Committee form the Paraeducator Certificate Program, which provides standards-based training and career advancement opportunities for paraeducators and individuals aspiring to pursue a teaching profession. Washington is the first and only state in the United States to offer the program, making paraprofessionals in the area feel a valued part of the system. In addition, she ran for a school board in 2001, an experience that helped her become more recognized in her community as a passionate educator and advocate for equality and cultural diversity in the educational system. She’s a member of the Professional Education Standards Board, a board member of Washington Ethnic Studies Now, and a member of Advocates Inequities in Certified Paraprofessionals. As a testament to her work, Ms. Johnson has been recognized by the National Teacher’s Hall of Fame, as an Education Support Professional of the Year by the Washington Education Association, with a Leadership Award for Educational Support, and as an Inspiring Educator of the Year.

Looking toward the future, she envisions herself continuing to make favorable changes in the education field to keep improving until it reflects its true definition. She is a proud mother with two grandchildren.

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