Joy Dunna (2017 Epsilon Xi/Gustavus) never saw herself as a teacher. She began her college career thinking she’d be a nurse but quickly realized that her passion lay in her history classes.
During her senior year of college, Joy worked with high school students. “I really wanted to keep doing that, and then the only thing I really could envision myself doing was teaching… it’s been really rewarding ever since,” she said.
After graduating as a History and Women’s Studies double major, she pursued a master’s degree in social studies education. This ultimately meant that Joy was student-teaching during a pandemic.
In Minnesota, schools were virtual in 2020. Joy’s entire first semester of student-teaching middle school was done virtually. In spring 2021, schools began to open back up. “Our instructors were like, ‘You’re going to be licensed teachers. You need to get in a classroom,’” she said. Her second-semester placement was at a high school, where Joy experienced a hybrid of in-person and Zoom classes.
“It was difficult. I was learning how to teach during this time when a lot of people were losing hope in the system. A lot of the students that I made connections with, I’d never met in person. It was nothing I could’ve prepared for…I had to accept that it was going to look different for a long time,” she explained.
When she was student-teaching, Joy found a delicate balance between her schoolwork and the needs of her students. “I couldn’t let go of the classroom. I just cared so much for the students that if had the option of putting my own academics first or being present with the students I was with, I always chose being present with them,” she said.
Now, Joy is in her first year of teaching U.S. Government to 9th graders. “High school was always the goal. So, I got really lucky that my first job offer at a high school…it’s the biggest academic building I’ve ever been in,” she said. With over 2700 students, this high school is officially larger than her college’s undergraduate enrollment.
So, how does Joy hold the attention of her students? With skills she learned during Alpha Sigma Tau recruitment, of course. As Vice President of Growth, Joy enjoyed connecting with people one-on-one and learned how to communicate in an effective and welcoming manner.
“You have to communicate so that everyone can see themselves in our sorority. Those are skills that have translated into teaching. Like, what are ways you can see yourself in our government? Or ways that you can contribute? Upon reflection, those are skills that I got from AΣT, those didn’t just happen. I got to practice there, and now I’m using them in my career,” said Joy.
Another critical element of teaching? Being a willing learner and continuing to change. When asked what advice she had to offer to fellow Sisters considering teaching or going through teaching programs, Joy said, “You’re the leader in the classroom, but there’s never a time where I’m not learning something, which sounds cheesy to say but it’s true. I don’t have all the answers, and if you close that door… it’s such a disserve to [the students].”
She continued, “Knowing that you’re always going to be a learner is so important because the world is going to keep changing. And hopefully, I’m not the same person I am right now in 20 years – hopefully, I’m an even better teacher and changed with the world and adapted with the new students I get.”
Her advice makes sense given some of her future career goals, which could involve teaching on a college campus. “At one point, I did consider getting my Ph.D. I’d just love to keep working with young people,” she said. “But I need a break from formal education for a moment!”
We know these students are lucky to have a leader like Joy in the classroom!