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11/25/2012 9:49:00 AM
A squint, a smile and a laugh: Johnson serves as Chelan High's touchstone
Sharon Johnson directs traffic through her portal during a recent typical morning at the middle and high school foyer.
Sharon Johnson directs traffic through her portal during a recent typical morning at the middle and high school foyer.
Left to right: Diana Vazquez, Sharon Johnson, Anayeli Rodriguez, Patricia Andrade and Faustino Pickett congregate at the CHS front desk. Mirror photos by Vince Lovato
Left to right: Diana Vazquez, Sharon Johnson, Anayeli Rodriguez, Patricia Andrade and Faustino Pickett congregate at the CHS front desk.

Mirror photos by Vince Lovato
Vince Lovato

On a recent typical morning, CHS secretary Sharon Johnson wore her Mountain Goats T-shirt, stood with her hands on her hips, looked out of her large portal into the foyer at Chelan High School and played her usual roll of traffic cop, Band Aid applicator, information provider, rules enforcer, comforter.

On the other side of the foyer, Johnson spots a student enjoying a chunk of chocolate cake.

"Is that all you're eating for breakfast?" she asked.
The boy smiles and shakes his head "No," with chocolate stuck to the corner of his mouth.

"Well, better enjoy it," Johnson said.

A gaggle of loud boys crowds through the foyer.

"Hey, you're in a quiet zone," she said.

Four girls holding stacks of books lean against Johnson's booth asking about homework requests.

"Let's get this done so you can get to class," she said while helping them fill out the paperwork.

"I don't know many human beings who gives to others like she does," said English Teacher Joanie Bankson. "She just has this infinite source of compassion for others. She also exemplifies the term multitasking: Have you seen the lines that form daily in front of her desk? Her patience is astounding. Then there's her laugh..."

Kids leave things for others to pick up; or so they can come pick it up later. Teachers have mailboxes they leave things in for kids, parents, visitors and vice versa. Johnson makes sure the connections are made, messages are sent and received, and parents know what their little darlings are doing - good and not so good.

"You wouldn't be the first I've told that Sharon Johnson is my hero, my role model. Truly," Bankson said. "She's one of the people I aspire to be like each and every day. She sets the bar so high."

Sophomore Arraceli Villanueva sits in the cafeteria and tries to decide whether to eat some mysterious pink sauce on her lunch tray.

"(Johnson) can be kind of hard on you," said Villanueva. "Sometimes she's strict but she has that mother side of her, too. She's only hard (in order) to help you."

Johnson nags students about attendance, dress code, homework and manners.

"She is very understanding and warm," said Sagrario Hernandez, who gave up on eating the pink sauce. "When my dog died, she was there for me. I know that doesn't sound big, but it is. All the students count on her."

Counselor Jesi Lingo has one overwhelming impression of Johnson.

"Her laugh is the main thing," Lingo said. "It echoes through
the hallways. Anyone who hears that laugh is immediately transported back to school. It's also a good representation because she is always looking on the bright side; she's always upbeat."

Drama Club students take advantage of that laughter.
"Drama Club kids always save her a front-row seat for play performances so her laugh will be contagious to the rest of the audience," said Drama Teacher Marile Kunkel. "She unconditionally loves each and every student; learns every name, face, background. Every student loves her, respects her, obeys her, confides in her."

Principal Barry DePaoli, who worked in several high schools and middle schools before arriving in Chelan, said Johnson is one of a kind.

"She not only knows all of our students, she cares deeply about them as people," he said. "She is firm, but always willing to go the extra mile for a kid. She is like our school mother, and I am truly honored to know and work with Sharon Johnson."

During Chelan High School's 105th commencement ceremony in June, it was DePaoli who gave the definitive Johnson anecdote.

He recalled a student named Jay who thought he was dropping out of school to move with his girlfriend to Wenatchee. Jay had his girlfriend call in an excused absence to the high school pretending to be his mother.

"But we don't need caller ID at Chelan High School,"
DePaoli said. "We've got Mrs. Johnson."

When Johnson received the call, she immediately told the girlfriend to put Jay back on the phone and told him to get on the next bus back to campus.

Jay, the would-be drop-out, graduated on June 8.

Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, November 25, 2012
Article comment by: Brian Burnett

I worked with Sharon Johnson a couple years ago as the Chelan School Resource Officer and I can honestly say that Sharon wears a variety of hats, sometimes many at one time. The one thing the hats have in common is that she always has the studen't best interest in mind. Sharon has one of the biggest hearts, nearly as big as her laugh, that I have ever known. I truly miss being a part of the Chelan High School and interacting with a legend.

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