Former university-level professor a ‘tough,’ well-respected instructor

With high expectations of herself and her students, Rebecca Joy has made her mark on Permian High School. 
This past school year, she was named the Secondary Teacher of the Year. This is her eighth year in Ector County ISD and her 11th year of teaching. ECISD is her Joy’s first venture into kindergarten through 12th grade education.
At Permian, Joy teaches mostly sophomores in honors chemistry and she has one class of second-year chemistry students who are juniors and seniors in Advanced Placement and dual credit.
She taught descriptive and inorganic chemistry at University of Texas San Antonio and Our Lady of the Lake University.
Descriptive chemistry, she said, is freshman-level college chemistry. “I was doing the labs at the beginning, and then once I was almost finished with my dissertation, I started teaching more of the lectures,” Joy said.
A native of Odessa, Joy started her education at Odessa College and then transferred to University of Texas Permian Basin.
“I had some research internships over the summers within all that, too, but went to graduate school at UT San Antonio,” Joy said.
She earned bachelor’s degrees in biology and chemistry and a PhD in biology and organic chemistry from UT San Antonio. Joy skipped getting a master’s degree, moving straight to a doctorate.
She returned to Odessa for family reasons.
“I’m from Odessa. It’s like a black hole, right? It sucks you back in, but I … was in San Antonio for almost eight years and then my family’s all back here so that’s the reason I came back here,” she said.
One of the things she’s enjoyed about teaching high school is getting to know her students — their names, their faces, their backgrounds, what they’re involved in. And she gets to attend their extracurricular events.
The lecture classes at the university level ranged from almost 200 to almost 400 and she knew about 10 of them only because they came to office hours outside of class.
There’s also the excitement of teaching the students science. She added that it’s a tough subject to teach the students, but she feels good about helping them like it and understand it.
Joy said teaching pulled her in. She didn’t aim for it as a career.
“I was good at chemistry. When I first started taking classes, I was tutoring on the side as I was going to school. It kind of worked to where I realized I was good at helping other people understand the material. I really liked math and I really liked science, so I guess it kind of chose me; not I chose it,” Joy said.
She has found ways to teach virtually this year, but it’s not the same as in person.
“I’m bummed this year because I’m more worried about having them do labs and activities in class and me risking getting one of them sick vs. them actually having hands-on experience with labs. It’s been a tough battle,” Joy said. She said she was very surprised to win the secondary teacher of the year honor.
“I do work really hard. I know I do, but my class is tough. I’m a tough teacher and I have students and past students I still talk to and try to keep up with them, or they’ll come see me at school. But it’s one of those classes that’s really tough and I kind of have a reputation of being tough and strict. When I got the award I was thinking, ‘Oh my goodness! What is this?’ It was a pleasant surprise, though.”
Joy said she tells her students every year that because she taught at the college level, she knows what’s going to be expected of them when they get there.
“… I don’t feel like I was pushed enough when I was younger and could pick up on things more quickly. I don’t feel like I was pushed enough in high school to where it would have made getting into college and beginning college a lot easier. That’s what I try to tell my students. If you feel like I’m being tough, it’s because your mind right now is very agile. It can absorb a lot of information and you can make sense of it more easily now than as you get older. Everything’s going to be new about college so at least let that not be one of the concerns, or one of the issues that’s going to cause you trauma or drama either way,” Joy said.
Winning the award, she said, will continue to drive her.
“… I have high expectations for my students because I have high expectations for myself, so I’m constantly revising activities from previous years. If something didn’t go well or they didn’t get it, that’s kind of a constant throughout each year because every group of kids is different. You kind of have to adapt to the new group that you get every year. I don’t feel like an award will change that drive in me, but it definitely wouldn’t make me think this is the best award I can get. I’m done. No, I couldn’t do that. There would be something very wrong with me if I did that, so no. I’ll just keep shooting to be better,” Joy said.
PHS Principal Delesa Styles said Joy is a true asset to the campus and certainly deserving of the honor of Secondary Teacher of the Year for ECISD.
“She brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to PHS’s science department and is well respected by her colleagues. Her students work very hard under her thoughtful guidance and the high expectations she sets for them. To have Dr. Joy represent PHS for this distinction is truly an honor,” Styles said in an email.