Joy (Westberg) Johnson ‘88

Joy (Westberg) Johnson ‘88
Nicole Sheldon

Joy (Westberg) Johnson has taught Middle School English at MA for 20 years. She started as a student at MA as a 9th grader when her family moved to Minneapolis from the west coast.  She recalls that while they were still in California, her dad asked her, “How would you like to go to Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis?” Her answer? “Minne-what?” It didn’t take long for her to feel right at home at MA. She enjoyed band, Swedish, and working on the school newspaper, The Quiver, and the yearbook, The Antler. Her best memories from MA, though, are the fun times with and the support she received from her friends.    

Joy's Journey

She has quite a journey that led her to where she is today. After Minnehaha, Joy attended North Park College and sought a BA in English. She also completed the education sequence, with the aim of teaching high school English. However, while working at Covenant Pines Bible Camp during the summer, she realized her favorite age group to work with was middle schoolers.  After graduation, she was not able to find a teaching job in Chicago, so she returned to Minneapolis and volunteered to help with the youth group at Salem Covenant Church.  The church was between youth directors, and by the end of her first night there, she was offered the paid interim youth director role while they searched for someone to fill the position permanently. She also worked in the afterschool program at Minnehaha, and subbed periodically. When Salem hired the new youth pastor, Joy worked with them, and they encouraged Joy to go to seminary.  Just about the time Joy committed to attending seminary, she also began dating Kevin Werner, whom she had worked with at Covenant Pines. Before long, they were engaged, and after one year of seminary, Joy returned to Minneapolis. 

Once married, Joy worked an office job; however, she soon realized that it was not meaningful work for her, so she headed back to teaching.  Her first day back in the classroom as a substitute, Joy thought, “Ahh, this is where I belong.” She served as a substitute teacher for three years until she got her own classroom.  That first year was a hard year, and she did a lot of questioning if teaching was really the right place for her.  Teaching was all-consuming, and she started feeling like she needed to spend more time with Kevin. That fall, she started working at The History Center in St. Paul teaching lessons to field trip groups.  It was a less demanding job, but it also allowed her to hone her teaching skills.  During that time, Kevin was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer; he died just six weeks later, in January 2000.  Looking back, it was obvious to Joy that God had orchestrated their lives to spend more time together. “God allowed me to step back from work and focus on Kevin.” They had been married for five-and-a-half years, and Joy was 29 years old. 

Convinced Teaching Was In The Past

After Kevin passed, she convinced herself that she could not be a teacher again without his help, support and encouragement, which meant a career change. So, in late 2000, she went through a process of meeting with a job coach to try to figure out what she should do, and everything the job coach worked with her on led back to education in some way.  She interviewed for some different educational type positions, but none were a good fit.  One day, she was sitting at her computer and got a sense that she still needed to be a teacher.  “I said, ‘OK God, if you want me to do this, I’ll do it. But it needs to be all you--I can’t do this myself.’”  She applied for and got a long-term sub job at a local high school, where she was invigorated to be back in the classroom.  When that finished in June 2001, she interviewed at several schools, including Minnehaha, and had two offers. After weighing the options, she accepted the offer at Minnehaha and has been teaching at MA ever since.

Joy married Tim Johnson in 2010, and they have two children who attend MA: Camilla, 3rd grade, and Kajsa, 1st grade.  Why has she stayed at MA so long?  “It’s the right fit, and I so enjoy the people that I work with.  We’re like-minded, grounded by Christ, and share similar values and similar purpose.” 

MA Is My 'Hometown'

Joy sees Minnehaha as her hometown, and she is grateful for the interactions between generations there. When Joy started working at MA’s middle school, one of the highlights was teaching and coaching with her former volleyball coaches, Forrest Dahl and Phil Erickson.  “It was so fun to come full circle!”  It has also been fun for Joy to teach some of her classmates’ kids, and now, her own children are in class with some of the children of her former students!  



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