Public Service Academy under new leadership


New PSA lead Debra Johnson poses in her new classroom. Photo by Rinu Daniel.

By Elizabeth Sims
Staff Writer

The Academies at CHS received an unexpected new leader for the 2012-13 school year. Debra Johnson became the Public Service Academy (PSA) lead after the former lead, Brenda Brinkman, left Coppell High School to become the assistant director for New Tech High at Coppell.

“I learned about the Public Service Academy this past summer while looking at the Coppell website,” Johnson said. “I was intrigued by the concept of the Academies.”

Prior to leading PSA, Johnson has had experiences working in both medical and educational fields. Her background in critical care nursing gave her a job in the intensive care unit at Baylor Medical Center. While working there, she was offered a job to open a specialty school and work in the health science technology department.

“I took that job to try something different,” Johnson said. “I quickly discovered how rewarding it was to prepare high school students for careers in health care.”

To prepare herself to teach high school students, Johnson has been attending graduate school for nursing education. Research for these classes has provided her effective teaching and learning strategies she hopes to implement in the classroom.

“I hope to bring opportunities to my students that are more relevant and meaningful to their interests,” Johnson said. “I believe when students have ownership in the curriculum, they are more motivated to work hard and master the skills needed to reach their goals.”

Johnson’s experiences in nursing and educating gave her the qualifications to take on the PSA lead position.

“The certification for teaching the health science technology class is very limited,” CHS associate principal Michelle Kellen said. “The teacher must have experience in nursing or training, and [Johnson] had a nursing certification as well as experience teaching health science technology in Irving.”

Though the students in PSA miss Brinkman, they are happy to have an academy lead to guide them through the year.

“Ms. Johnson will be a good leader,” junior Kevin Songco said. “She looks out for us, and I am glad she was able to step up.”

Brinkman still has high hopes for the future of PSA though she is no longer its leader.

“My hope for PSA is that it would constantly change to meet the needs of the students while emphasizing service,” Brinkman said. “Who better to do that than someone with a career based on service?”

After witnessing Johnson’s excitement about PSA at the new teacher breakfast over the summer, Brinkman is eager to see the opportunities that will be set in place for her former students.

“[Johnson] will be able to create opportunities that we had talked about for the academy,” Brinkman said. “She can emphasize to the students that it is not just a career path but giving back to the community.”


With big shoes to fill, Johnson’s singular focus is the success of her students. She is excited to be a part of Coppell High School and leading PSA.

“It is an honor and privilege to work with the CHS team,” Johnson said. “I look forward to a great year.”