We Are L.A. Unified

Johnny Johnson is to parent volunteering what Betty White is to acting and Queen Elizabeth II is to royalty. He has been doing it forever.Now 87, Johnny has been a full-time volunteer at San Jose Street Elementary School since retiring in 1990 from Lockheed Corp. When the older of his two children entered the school in 1960, Johnny began helping students learn how to read. Now, his experience volunteering at the school totals some 55 years.

Ask him why, and he shrugs, as if no explanation is necessary or needed. Serving others has been a passion for him. He also has been active with the Boy Scouts for five decades.

Today, “Mr. Johnson,” as he’s known to the kids, comes to the school at 9 a.m., and leaves around 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. The campus is a few blocks away from the house where he and his wife, Valeska, have lived for 60 years.

The all-purpose, no-nonsense handyman spends most of the day in the teachers’ workroom, handling an array of tasks that include: repairing the copy machine; sharpening pencils; filling glue bottles; making copies; fixing chairs; and organizing the hundreds of keys that have accumulated since the school opened in the 1950s.

“I can tell you where to find any key in the school,” he said. Janet Johnson, the San Jose principal who shares Johnny’s last name but is no relation, calls her octogenarian volunteer “an inspiration.

“He does so many things for the teachers and staff.”

Over the years, Johnny has received many certificates and honors. He earned the Community Volunteer Award in 2006 from the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, a union representing principals and administrators in L.A. Unified.

While pleased with such recognition, the biggest reward now is remaining active, he said. “I’m old enough that I don’t really need attention.”

--Thomas Waldman

 Click to see more profiles on the District's website, or Facebook page, To nominate a teacher, student, employee or volunteer, send an email to Thomas.Waldman@lausd.net, or call 213-241-6766.