Chase your dreams! Believe in yourself! Don’t expect things to be handed to you, but work hard and great things will come! Help others! Always be kind!

This is the answer Joy Lee of Colo-NESCO replied to the question, “As you retire, what advice would you leave to the students you have taught throughout the years?”

Lee began teaching at Colo-NESCO in 1984. She taught three years of kindergarten, 25 years of first grade, four years of fourth grade, and three years of sixth grade. She has taught in all three locations of the Colo-NESCO district.

“I started and spent most of my career in McCallsburg,” said Joy. “I had rooms on all three floors of that building at some point, and I even taught kindergarten in the new part of that building. That is where I taught all of my years of kindergarten and first grade,” she continued. “I taught both fourth and sixth grade in the Zearing building, and I have taught sixth grade in the Colo building these past two years.”

Why become a teacher? Joy replied, “I can’t pinpoint why I chose to teach as my career path, other than I have always loved kids. I just know I made the right choice because even as I retire, I walk away still loving to come to school each day and still loving the interactions I have with students every day. I daily see kids succeed, and I am always blown away by what they can do when their effort level is high,” she continued.

Joy’s favorite subject she has taught throughout the years is reading. “I love reading because I love books, and I love seeing kids get excited about books and become proficient readers,” she stated. “I taught all subjects in kindergarten, first, and fourth grade, but in sixth I have just taught reading/language arts. At all levels, reading is the subject I love most,” she continued.

A special and memorable time in Joy’s career was when she would put on a play every year with the kids. This started back when she was teaching first grade. Joy explained why this time was special, “I was always blown away by what kids are capable of if you raise the bar high enough and practice hard enough, she commented. “The productions that I directed will always be very cherished memories.” Some of the productions included “A Christmas Wizard of Oz,” “A Snow White Christmas,” “A Christmas Cinderella,” “A Christmas Peter Pan” and “A Christmas Carol.”

How has teaching changed throughout the years? Joy answered, “When I first started, I marched 36 kindergarteners up three flights of stairs many times a day. Now, there are no stairs at all! Crazy! We use to run copies with a mimeograph machine. Now I send what I want printed directly from my computer most of the time. We use to have chalkboards and manual pencil sharpeners. What a great thing an electric pencil sharpener is and a whiteboard! Kids spent a lot of time learning to write neatly and now keyboarding is a skill they need besides,” she concluded.

Does technology make teaching easier? “Technology has mainly made teaching easier,” said Joy. “The world is now at a student’s fingertips. Google anything and it is available. I can now use less paper and shine things up in front of the whole class with a projector,” she continued. “Kids can do worksheets like tasks on the computer and even take some tests that way.”

What is it about teaching that brings you back to the classroom every day? Joy replied, “I come back every day because I love the kids. Even the kids that struggle or have challenging behaviors often just need an extra dose of understanding. I love the moments when the light bulbs go off in their minds, and suddenly a concept that was so difficult yesterday is within their grasp.”

Joy has dedicated 35 years to Colo-NESCO. She has seen many changes take place, such as consolidation, changing of buildings, technology and, of course, every year saying goodbye to one class and hello to another. When asked what will you miss the most about teaching, she answered, “I will miss the joy the kids bring into my life. You never have a dull moment when you’re a teacher.”

Joy leaves some advice to new teachers beginning their career. “Love the kids, Love the unlovable kids. What they get at school from you may be the best part of their day!”

“The more one knows, the luckier he is, for knowledge is the greatest gift in life.” L. Frank Baum