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Johannsen Closes Books On Educational Career
joel johannsen
Clearing out his desk as he prepares for retirement, longtime Escalon Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Joel Johannsen looks over his ‘memories file’ collected during his lengthy career in education.

Joel Johannsen needs to schedule a couple more days to clean out his desk.

He keeps getting distracted by going through memories that he finds as he does the clean out, memories collected from decades in education, including more than 15 years with the Escalon Unified School District.

Johannsen is retiring, leaving his post as the EUSD Assistant Superintendent after spending eight years with the district office and several more before that in different capacities.

“I started as the Collegeville-Farmington principal; that was during the 2002-03 school year,” Johannsen said. “Then I was Farmington-Vista principal the following year, then spent five years at the high school as principal.”

He made the move to the district office from the high school eight years ago and is proud of accomplishments at all levels of his career with Escalon.

He noted that he and Danny King worked to set up a zero period conditioning class and, perhaps or perhaps not coincidentally, the Cougars won a state football championship the year that occurred.

He also pointed to a 34-pont increase in API scores one year during his tenure and the school’s selection as a California Distinguished School.

Through it all, however, one thing has been constant for Johannsen.

“It’s all about the kids, it has always been the kids,” he said.

Case in point, some of the most treasured memories he has are mementoes from those kids, students at all levels that have drawn him a picture, sent him a card thanking him for pushing them to do their best … the folders and manila envelopes contain years of memories.

“I always wanted to be a superintendent,” he admitted, but noted that even though he didn’t quite get to that post, “it’s all worked out for the best.”

The most satisfying role he had during his tenure at Escalon Unified, he said, was being an elementary school principal.

“Without a doubt,” he said. “You see the potential, those eager little minds.”

For Johannsen, it also came full circle when students he first had at Collegeville and Farmington made their way to high school. Many remembered him, he said, which also was a ‘feel good’ moment along the way.

“It’s also great to see them, watching the gangly, scared to death freshmen come in and walk out four years later as young adults,” he said of the high school transformation.

Johannsen said his role as assistant superintendent required him to do some things he “never imagined” such as “preparing kids today for jobs that don’t exist.” At least not yet, but with technology, will be there when the kids are graduates and ready to enter the work world.

“When I got here there wasn’t a Chromebook in the district, we have close to 2,500 now,” he pointed out. “Technology has been an exciting part of this job, making sure we’re providing all the resources and support to the classroom.”

Other stops on the career path for Johannsen have included an assistant principal post at Arcata High School – where he supervised some of his former teachers, as he graduated from there – teaching in Keyes for a year and then four years teaching and five years in administration at Eureka High School.

His wife’s family is from the Central Valley so they made the move back to the Modesto area and he closed out his career with Escalon Unified.

He plans to stay involved by doing some volunteer work, consulting and keeping current with technology.

He and his wife have a daughter, living and working in San Francisco, and a son who will be a junior at Enochs High School in the fall.

“This career and life have been very rewarding for me,” Johannsen said, adding that he wanted to retire while he still has “the time and energy to give back” to his community.

But again, he will miss the very reason he entered the education field in the first place.

“I had 2,009 reasons to come to work today,” he said, alluding to the district’s enrollment. “It’s for the kids; it has always been that for me.”