When Your Student Grows Up to be a Teacher (And You Volunteer in His Classroom!)

This article was originally spotlighted in the Berkeley Schools Volunteers newsletter in April 2021.

BSV Host Teacher Marvin Reed (last year Thousand Oaks, this year Rosa Parks, 3rd gr) has a classroom volunteer relationship like no other: Katie Johnson, a veteran and now retired teacher, taught a much younger Marvin Reed in 3rd grade, right here in BUSD! 


What do you remember about each other from back then?

Marvin: When I was in Ms. Johnson’s 3rd grade class, I remember her warmth. She was a strict teacher that really cared about students. It is because of Ms. Johnson that I have much of the cultural capital I have today. All students deserve a Ms. Johnson – someone who will never give up on you and will set high expectations with high support to help you reach your highest potential. 

Katie: When Marvin was in my third grade, he already had the ability to observe and reflect in a way I had seldom seen. He would stand in the back of the class sometimes and watch. I wondered what he was thinking at the time. 

One of my favorite memories was when I took the class to San Francisco’s Chinatown. I had prepared the class well with its history (including the Chinese Exclusion Act), culture, architecture, and customs of Chinatown. I wanted them to see the oldest Buddhist Temple in the country. Marvin held my hand all the way up the 4 flights of stairs to the temple. When we got there, he took a deep breath, looked at the prayer flags, and whispered, “How beautiful!”  

How did you two reconnect?

Marvin: I found her on MySpace {early social media platform} while I was in high school, then we stayed connected on Facebook. We’ve been friends ever since.

Katie: Several years later, a handsome young man walked into my classroom. I knew immediately that it was Marvin. He had been invited to speak at the Oxford 5th grade graduation. I introduced him to my 3rd graders and they were so impressed. 

How did the volunteering arrangement start?

Katie: Throughout Marvin’s college years I would get glimpses of his activities and academics on social media. Eventually, I learned he was in graduate school and in a credential program to become a teacher! I cheered him on. 

When he was assigned to be a 3rd grade teacher at Thousand Oaks, I helped him move into his classroom. He recalled with great detail our 3rd grade experience and began asking questions about how I taught.  He asked about many of the books and units he remembered. After I retired from BUSD, I had been substitute teaching, but had recently decided to stop. But when Marvin and I met in his classroom, I knew what my next “assignment” was. 

What’s your shared “classroom” experience like today?

Marvin: Ms. Johnson contributes to my learning community by doing what she loves to do – teach! She works with small groups and it is so beautiful to hear students say, “I want to work with Ms. Johnson.” She is such a kind soul, and the students gravitate towards her everyday she’s with us. 

Katie: What a privilege it has been to mentor and teach alongside Marvin, and to help his students. Zoom has been a challenge and a joy for all of us! Marvin always seems to find something fun to brighten students’ days. And I leave each day bursting with pride that he was my student. Now I know what he was thinking when he stood in the back of the room in 3rd grade; he wanted to be a teacher.

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