Hall’s Joanna McConville takes inspiration from seeing her students succeed

‘When someone else was happy, I was happy for them,’ she says

Mrs. Joanna McConville teaches bones to students in Science class at Hall High School on Thursday, April 7, 2022 in Spring Valley.

When Special Education Teacher Joanna McConville arrived at Hall High School 15 years ago, she didn’t think she would enjoy working with older students as much as she enjoyed the younger ones.

But she says she was mistaken.

“I fell in love with high school when I got to Hall,” McConville said. “I didn’t think I would, but I fell in love. I would never go back to anything else. I’m definitely where my heart is with these students.”

Teaching with her heart is something administrators and colleagues can see through her interactions with students.

“I started in education because I’ve always been the type of person who enjoys other people’s successes,” McConville said. “When someone else was happy, I was happy for them.”

Mrs. Joanna McConville teaches students in Science class at Hall High School on Thursday, April 7, 2022 in Spring Valley.

McConville teaches the special education math classes, a senior English class, various real-life application classes and also serves as a co-teacher for biology and chemistry classes.

She said she tries to find times and lessons where she can offer students a way of straying from a typical school day while still being able to educate and prepare them for their next steps.

These lessons could include helping them stay organized, planting flower seeds or just going for a walk when a student needs a fresh start.

“That’s what my job is here, it’s not to give them all of the information, my job is to guide them so they can find the path that they need to find,” McConville said. “I sometimes get emotional during some of my meetings with seniors, because we have gone through so much together.”

McConville can recall stories of meeting former students at graduation who stated that without her efforts they would have dropped out of school. These students have since graduated, and many have families of their own, she said.

McConville also recounts running into the wife of a former student. The wife let her know that her work continues to help that former student years after they left Hall High School.

“It’s nice to see them come back and recognize you later on,” McConville said. “You don’t see that day-to-day. I may make an impression on a student today, but they don’t realize it until five or 10 years down the road.”

For McConville, such stories are all about the work her students have been able to accomplish and not about her receiving any type of credit.

“I don’t need to have recognition for that,” McConville said. “That’s not what my job is. I know that I’ve touched them and they’ve gotten where they needed to go and I made an impact on them. Then they can go on and be productive adults. That’s why I do what I do.”

Mrs. Joanna McConville talks about teaching special needs students at Hall High School on Thursday, April 7, 2022 in Spring Valley.

Like all jobs, there are certain days where it could be hard to get up and go to work. For McConville, the bond and relationships that she has with her students is what keeps her coming back each day.

Whether it’s encouraging a student through a tough test, helping them grasp a new concept, being there to help emotionally or just giving her students a smile as they walk into her classroom, McConville says she is there for her students.

“I love these students because I get to see them grow from freshman year to senior year,” McConville said. “I get to see them change and develop into the person that they are going to be as an adult.”

Outside of her classroom, McConville, along with another faculty member, serves as the sophomore class sponsor at Hall. These responsibilities come with helping with fundraisers, homecomings and parades.

McConville said she enjoys how willing people in the Hall community are to help out when needed.

“The faculty here is wonderful,” McConville said. “We work well with each other. Our union is very strong in this building, our administration is awesome and they are very personable with us.”

Mrs. Joanna McConville poses for a photo at Hall High School on Thursday, April 7, 2022 in Spring Valley.

In McConville’s position, working in conjunction with parents also is crucial. She mentioned her overall experience in creating a group effort behind an individual student’s education has been positive.

“Sometimes it can be very trying, but for the most part I have had pretty good luck with most of my families,” McConville said. “You just have to be straightforward with them and tell it like it is. Most parents appreciate the fact that you’re honest with them.”

As much as it is McConville’s job to educate the children in her classroom, she feels it’s equally as important to learn from the students themselves and to change and adjust as time goes on.

“We forget how hard education is,” she said. “It’s not an easy job, but it is also very rewarding.”

For McConville, her hope is that every student who comes through her classroom leaves more prepared for what lies ahead than when she met them.

“I think that’s why I do what I do, because there’s that one kid that I may reach that day or I may be able to get through,” McConville said. “That makes it all worthwhile for me.”