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EXCHANGE: More teaching in the future for 90-year-old woman

September 28, 2018

MANTENO, Ill. (AP) — Longtime area teacher Joyce Emmons celebrated her 90th birthday with friends and family at the Manteno American Legion.

But just because she’s turning 90 doesn’t mean she’s slowing down anytime soon.

“I don’t feel like I’m 90,” she said. To stay active, Joyce goes to the gym three to four times per week, enjoying pilates and swimming.

“I definitely don’t feel my age, and that helps me stay active.”

This party, set up by her children, is a chance to celebrate Joyce’s life and the knowledge she’s shared throughout the years as a teacher. Past students and colleagues are welcome to attend.

Joyce retired from teaching just before she turned 80. She was set to retire sooner, but after her husband passed suddenly, she decided to continue teaching.

After teaching at the kindergarten through eighth-grade level in places such as Jacksonville and Wilmington, she ended her career in the Manteno school district.

“I was an English teacher at Manteno High School to begin with, then, after I got pregnant, I taught elementary-aged students with special disabilities,” Joyce said.

English was her first love.

“I admired the life of one of my cousins who was teaching college English, and I was always an avid reader and I loved literature,” Joyce said.

Her love of books as a little girl was passed down to all three of her children.

“My mom and my dad really taught me how to have a love for books,” said Karen Emmons, dean for academic affairs at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. “Before I started traveling, I learned so much about the world through books and reading.”

“We did have a lot of books in the house. Books were very precious to me as a little girl,” Karen said. “I’d get the Nancy Drew books for Christmas, and they’d be finished by the end of the day.”

While Joyce was trained to teach, she said the job sometimes required her to perform tasks that she wasn’t necessarily prepared for.

“I liked working with kids but it wasn’t all a piece of cake,” Joyce said. She recalls a time working at a school in Jacksonville, where a younger student came into her classroom with a knife.

“I then chased him and got the knife from him,” Joyce said. “Those are the things you’re never trained for.”

After teaching for 59 years, Joyce now tutors students from her home and still enjoys watching students learn something new.

“In the schools, there are lots of children who get left behind because they have problems that haven’t been recognized yet,” Joyce said. “With teaching and tutoring, I love seeing the progress the students make. Tutoring makes me feel like I still have a purpose in life.”

Joyce has helped hundreds of students throughout the years through teaching and tutoring.

“I wish I could help them all,” Joyce said. “I’ll just keep offering — that’s all I can do.”

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Source: The (Kankakee) Daily Journal, https://bit.ly/2QkjEpN

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Information from: The Daily Journal, http://www.daily-journal.com

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