Joined USJ: 1975-1979; Returned: 1986
Joanne Cunard describes her approach to the classroom – now in its fourth decade – as transactional teaching, not transmission. Rather than merely lecturing, she employs a more dynamic, holistic approach, where teaching and learning is best seen as a circle of collaborative experiences in which theory and practice interact, with one explaining the other. Students negotiate, perform, monitor, and examine how they produce and why. As one student noted, she learned to teach by analyzing how she herself was guided to take more responsibility, gain independence and understanding her own learning. It is, Cunard says, “exhilarating, exciting and exhausting,” and ultimately more effective for students.
Students in Cunard’s classes not only learn the material, they put it to good use. They pursue “active research,” supported by faculty and using techniques they have experienced in their classes. Students tackle a particular local school challenge, devising solutions, and then implementing them in real time in consultation with the school where they are assigned. Problems addressed range from improving reading literacy to combating bullying, and USJ students have seen their plans make a difference in local schools and districts. Cunard stresses that these opportunities demonstrate first-hand to USJ students the impact they can have as teachers.
Initially drawn to teaching by a district “in desperate need of teachers,” Cunard has taught in inner city schools, at the middle school level and as a reading specialist. She is actively involved as a journal editor, think tank leader and sought-after leader in initiatives focused on literacy education. Cunard also is deeply involved with statewide organizations advocating and encouraging state policy makers and educators to communicate effectively with one other, to the benefit of all — especially students.
Ph.D., University of Connecticut
M.A., The Ohio State University
B.A., The Ohio University