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Instructor Spotlight: Russell Joy, Literacy Mid-South

January 10, 2023

When Literacy Mid-South adult program coordinator Lee Chase nominated Russell Joy to be featured in ProLiteracy’s new Instructor Spotlight series, he said Russell came to the program five years ago with the skills and personality to connect with the program’s ESL students from various age ranges and cultures. Since then, he’s watched Russell build a loyal following of students, “many of whom have expressed to me that he’s the best English teacher they’ve ever had.”  

We caught up with Russell for the Instructor Spotlight and learned that what’s most important to him as an adult educator is knowing that he’s properly prepared to create meaningful lessons, his mother is his inspiration, and it never hurts to treat your class at the local Mexican restaurant. 

Meet Russell Joy. 

The Basics  

ProLiteracy: How long have you worked with Literacy Mid-South Adult Learning Program? 

Russell Joy: I really haven’t kept up with when I actually started volunteering with Literacy Mid-South, but I believe I have worked with ESL students for either 4 or 5 years. 

PL: Why did you decide to teach adults? 

RJ: My chosen career was a professional educator. That said, I have served in many roles during my career. I have been a middle and high school teacher, a middle school assistant principal, a human resource supervisor, and now I am a retired middle school principal. I served in that role for 28 years. The natural transition from those roles, as I saw it, was to teach adults in some capacity. 

PL: What do you teach and in what setting? 

RJ: Even though when I came to volunteer with Literacy Mid-South, I was under the impression that I would be teaching basic literacy, I have taught only English as a second language in the classroom setting.  

About Your Experience 

PL: What have you learned about yourself by working with students? 

RJ: Since I have a background in education for over 36 years, I can’t really say that I have learned anything new about myself as a teacher. For my students to be successful it is important for me to be well planned and get input from my students when I am preparing lessons. 

PL: Tell us about a favorite/impactful/memorable teaching experience. 

RJ: My most memorable and impactful teaching experience occurred both during and after I first taught a lesson on ordering food in a restaurant. The culminating activity involved treating my students to lunch at a Mexican restaurant and having them order their food choices from the menu, using only English.  

PL: How do you keep students motivated? 

RJ: I keep my students motivated by keeping them actively involved in every lesson and by relating my lessons to their real-life experiences. My students feel comfortable with my teaching style and often tell me that I am the best teacher they have ever had. 

The Other Stuff  

PL: Name someone who inspires you. (Can be someone famous or otherwise, dead or alive.) 

RJ: My mother was the person who inspired me most. She taught me the value of education, treating everyone you meet with dignity and the importance of giving back to the community. 

PL: Where would you go on your dream vacation? 

RJ: I have already gone on my dream vacation. It was a Mediterranean cruise starting in Barcelona, Spain, and visiting Mallorca, the South of France, Monaco, Florence, Pisa, and Rome, Italy. 

PL: What is your favorite book of all time? 

RJ: My favorite book of all time is A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. 

PL: What are you reading now?  

RJ: I just finished reading Billy Summers by Stephen King. 

PL: Is there a book you like to recommend to your students? 

RJ: That is a difficult question to answer because of their limited knowledge of the English language. My constant goal is to make certain my students understand basic English sentence structure and that they can comprehend sentence meaning when they read them. 

This is the first Instructor Spotlight, which will be a monthly feature on the ProLiteracy website and blog. Nominate an outstanding instructor from your program to be featured! 

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