Teacher Named Outstanding Young Alum Alumna Makes Impact in Surprising Places

Heroes come in all forms. 

They serve in harm's way in distant lands to protect our freedoms. They put their lives on the line by rushing into burning buildings or confronting crime. 

They raise us from the time we're babies. They lend a helping hand, even when no one's watching. 

They teach us and mentor us so we can become who God wants us to be.

Joy Rainey (00) is a hero. Like countless OC graduates, she throws everything she can into her life and career in order to serve others and glorify God.

Joy makes an impact on young inner-city kids through her role as a teacher at Western Village Academy in Oklahoma City. Teachers like her - along with mentoring relationships with OC and other organizations - have helped Western Village move from an "at-risk" school with low test scores to one of the top charter schools in the nation.

But her heart for young people goes beyond the classroom. She has served as a foster mother to two children from Western Village and reached out to families who face challenges many of us can't fathom.

Joy doesn't consider herself a hero; she's just doing what God has called her to do. Here's a glimpse into how that calling has impacted Joy and made her who she is today:

Why did you want to become a teacher?

I wanted to be a teacher pretty much from birth. I used to line up my stuffed animals and teach them. When I got a younger sibling, I would make her sit and do "homework" that I spent hours making up for her before she could go out and play. From a young age, I loved my teachers and wanted to be just like them. 

Why did you want to become a teacher at Western Village?

At OC, we had a practicum at Western Village. When we would come back to OC, people would tell stories about how the kids plotted to steal candy from their teachers, went to the bathroom on the playground, and other vulgar behaviors. They would say, "I'm never stepping foot in there again after this practicum!" I definitely understand that point of view. But I always said, "I'm going to teach there someday." I never wavered in that desire. I have stayed in the teaching profession at the same place because God has called me to be an encouragement and a spiritual light in the lives of many of the families I have worked with for so long.

What kind of impact does OC's relationship with Western Village have?

OC is such a huge blessing to Western Village. To give an hour of undivided attention to any kid (especially some of the kids we have here) is such a big deal. Kite Day is the kids' favorite day of the year. Flying kites, jumping around and screaming in Hardeman Auditorium, eating outside with your buddy...it's any kid's dream come true!

Who were some of the teachers you had here at OC who influenced and impacted you the most?

Dr. Vincent really made an impact on me. He made learning come alive and gave me the desire to give that gift to my students. Dr. Cleveland really helped me, too. My favorite class period at OC was an unplanned discussion about dealing with an issue that might arise in class that would never be covered in a textbook. He showed me by example that day that even the best thought-out lesson plans sometimes have to be altered or thrown out the window when real, applicable learning is happening. I also remember Dr. Miller sharing about a year when she had multiple students pass away. I never knew how much that would help me later in life, when I lost a former student due to gang violence.

How do you think you've changed as a teacher from when you first began?

Oh, man. I cry a lot less. My first year here, I cried every week; some weeks, I cried every day. I used to think that if I just loved the kids more than anybody had ever loved them, I would be the best teacher ever. Now I know it takes a lot more than the idea of love to get through to the kids. I am able to stand up for myself in confrontational situations in a Christ-like way and I'm more confident in my teaching. This has earned their respect for the most part over the years - a respect you can't have here until you've been around a while. Now I know it takes effort and time to establish the type of rapport necessary to have an impact here.

What do you think have been the most important lessons you've taught your students?

I hope it is that if you love people, you will be happy and blessed. I also hope I've taught them that, sometimes, the right thing is the harder thing to do, but the nobler, higher road is better and the path God wants us to take.

What do you think have been the most important lessons your students have taught you?

I learn so much from them on a daily basis. One thing is that people are always watching what I do. Every move and word counts. This is a constant reminder to me of what God expects from me. Knowing that my words and actions are surely going to be duplicated by many kids, I have to constantly strive to be a Godly example. They have also taught me that you have to forgive (especially the kindergarteners - they forgive so quickly and so thoroughly) and that life is a lot happier and less complicated when you are a forgiving person.

Aside from those lessons, what is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding - and humbling - part of my job is knowing that God believes in me enough to put me in a position to help people who are in so much need of help and, oftentimes, so challenging to help. It feels great knowing that I am able to be an instrument of God and that I have found His purpose and calling for me. My purpose and calling may change some day, but the faith these experiences have built up in me will help me trust and be confident in the Lord no matter where He leads me.

What are your long-term goals?

My long-term goal is just simply to serve God in any way I can. I hope that by doing this God can bless people through me and they can develop the desire to do the same. I want to share the gospel with others and equip them to do so as well.

Interview By Wes McKinzie (98)

Summer 2014

View more stories from the Summer 2014 issue of Vision magazine.