Dean Johnson: The Face Behind the School Psychologist  

By Clara Frank 

March 4, 2024

Dean Johnson has been working at Morro Bay High School for about eight years, and has been a psychologist for twenty four. He has worked in several different elementary and high schools including Monarch Grove, Bishop's Peak, Teach, Baywood Elementary, Pecheaco, Sinshimer, San Luis Obispo High School, and Pacific Beach. He originally worked as an elementary school teacher and taught first, fourth, and fifth grade. After being a teacher he worked in Silicon Valley in business and marketing, but eventually came back to teaching. After he returned to teaching, he had the epiphany that he wanted to be a school psychologist and help students one on one. He went back to school to get his education specialist degree, which is between a masters and a doctorate degree.

He says that his favorite thing about the job is getting to work with the students. He loves getting to know the students and learning about their struggles. He enjoys focusing on the resilience that students have rather than their weaknesses. “I always like finding out with students what's going on in their life, not just at school. How did they get to where they are?” He assesses students in order to determine the best plan to manage their learning according to their needs. To determine this plan, Johnson meets with teachers, parents, and the student themselves to assess the situation. He performs tests to see what the student’s strengths and weaknesses are and how they affect their learning. 

“Sometimes they feel safe enough to be able to disclose what's been going on and you wonder how they are even showing up everyday,” he says. “And yet somewhere somehow, they have this resilient quality where they are showing up on campus and doing the best they can. What motivates people who have had so much struggle?” 

Within the last few years Johnson has noticed an increase in mental health struggles in teens. He theorizes that the constant use of social media among teens has produced an increase in social anxiety. He also explained that the year of lockdown was detrimental to students' mental health. He says, “one of the most common [mental disorders] that I see is anxiety. I think that has really increased.”

He says a key part of the job is maintaining a balance between your work life and your life at home. To keep his life balanced Johnson enjoys going out in nature, hanging out with pets, and traveling during the summer. With this line of work comes a decent amount of stress which can easily leak into someone's everyday life. It is not an easy job, but Mr. Johnson does an amazing job getting students the resources they need.