Deborah Joseph grew up in Detroit in a family of educators. She was an avid reader as a child, and would spend her summers sitting on her front porch with a book. She received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Michigan, and was thrilled to receive her B.A. in psychology during the same ceremony that her father received his Ed.D in education.
Joseph is a kindergarten teacher at Bryant Elementary, and has worked for AAPS for 27 years.
The Ypsilanti resident is married with two adult children and a granddaughter, and shares her home with a yorkie named Sasha and a dachshund named Treasure. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and attends Shekinah Christian Church.
Still an avid reader, Joseph says she carries a book or magazine with her everywhere.
What made you decide to become a teacher? I initially wanted to be a pediatrician, but in high school almost fainted on a visit to medical lab. My friends thought that I should pursue another career—and I agreed!
I’d always spent time helping out in my mom’s preschool classroom, and after considering several other careers, I realized that my passion was education.
What keeps you motivated? 24 smiling faces every morning! I love the kids!
How would you characterize your teaching style? I tend to be very calm and nurturing, which is why I love kindergarteners. I try to include enough structure to keep kids safe and enough fun to keep them engaged. Structured fun! I’ll do almost anything silly to help them learn the concepts.
What is the most rewarding part about teaching? The “aha” moment when a child finally “gets it.” I don’t know who is more excited—the child or me.
What are your biggest challenges? The increasing demands placed on teachers.
What would you change about the profession if you could? I wish I could change the general perception of teaching as an easy six-hour job with summers off. Teachers spend time before and after school and on weekends preparing for students. They spend their time during the summer in workshops and spend their resources to prepare classrooms in the fall. They are professionals who go above and beyond every day. To remain in education, you really have to care about kids.
Do you have a mentor? I have had many mentors over the years, but my parents have and continue to be my most influential mentors.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a teacher? I would tell them to follow their heart and pursue their passion. It is not always easy and there are definite challenges as with any job. It is rewarding work and teachers really do touch the future.
If you weren’t teaching, what would you be doing, and how do you think that would affect your life? I really can’t imagine doing anything else, although I still live vicariously through my doctor friends.
What do you think is unique about being an AAPS teacher? I love the opportunity to teach in a diverse community. There are students from around the world who attend Ann Arbor schools. I feel that I can learn as much from my families as they do from me. I frequently tell my students that they are my “teachers” when they know about a topic, language or culture that I don’t know. I want my students to know that you never stop learning.
– Jo Mathis
AAPS District News