Teach For America South Carolina 2014
Assistant Principal, Eastside High School
You’ll meet Brandon Johnson confidently at work at the intersection of teaching and coaching.
Johnson majored in athletic training at the University of South Carolina (USC). His mom started out as a substitute teacher, then worked her way into school bookkeeping, full-time teaching, and school administration. His dad refereed football and basketball games for 30 years.
He has learned the best from both respected professions.
“A great teacher is a coach, and a great coach is a teacher,” said Johnson. “Both careers focus on finding the strengths in each individual and developing ways to use that strength to help the whole team or group. Both also identify the weaknesses of each person and apply resources and knowledge to fill the skill gaps.”
Johnson puts what he has learned from education and athletics into daily use as an assistant principal at Eastside High School in Greenville County.
“I’m an administrator, so my world is teaching, but I also have the opportunity to coach a lot of teachers,” he said. “I try to focus them on building relationships and being flexible.”
Flexibility defines Johnson’s professional path in education. It also led directly to an important moment in his personal life.
In 2014, Johnson was preparing to move to Texas for post-graduate education at Baylor University. He planned to pursue an MBA while working as a graduate assistant with the athletics program.
One night, a friend showed up to crash on the couch of his apartment in Columbia. The visitor raved about a program called Teach For America (TFA) where he intended to apply.
Intrigued, Johnson and his girlfriend, Ashley Gilmore, a few days later separately applied for TFA … without telling one another. Incredibly, both were accepted to Teach For America South Carolina (TFASC), and both were independently assigned to schools about an hour from one another.
Johnson stepped into a classroom teaching math and algebra to sixth graders and eighth graders at Palmetto Middle School in Mullins, S.C. Gilmore taught math at Manning Junior High School in Manning, S.C., which is about the same size as Mullins.
On the weekends, the couple saw each other, spending much of their time together making lesson plans and talking about the best ways to teach students. Johnson coached girls’ and boys’ basketball and football on the side, and he worked as an athletic trainer for nearby Creek Bridge High School.
Brandon and Ashley Johnson married in 2019. They had first met in the library at USC, and their love deepened during the TFASC years together. Brandon Johnson is in his fifth year as an administrator with the Greenville County School District, and Ashley Johnson is in her eighth year as a math teacher, now with the Spartanburg School District 7.
The rewards for Brandon Johnson have been deep and rich.
“The first person I met when I set foot at Palmetto Middle School had a child at age 16,” he said. “I was her teacher and her coach. She played basketball for me, and she still graduated high school on time.”
He added, “About four months ago, she reached out to me. She told me I had been her father figure when her father was not there. She described how everything I did had a lasting impact on her life.”
“It’s hard to put into words how it feels to know you’ve made such a difference in even one person’s life this way.”