Our Faculty

Joyce O’Donnell

Kindergarten Teacher

At WES Since: 2006

What is the best book you have ever read?

I was 9 years old when I read the best book ever.  The Dream Hunters, written by Elinor Lyon, was given to me as a going-away present by a beloved aunt, who somehow knew that I was petrified to be starting a new phase in my life.  My parents and I were about to move to the Dominican Republic for 2 years, and I did not want to leave my friends or my home.  Reading this book helped me to understand that new experiences and uncertainty can actually lead to the best adventures.  To this day, The Dream Hunters rests on my bedside table, and I re-read it once every year as a reminder to always courageously try new things.

What is your favorite quote?

My favorite quote is by Oscar Wilde: “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”  I think mistakes are awesome, because that’s how we learn best.  And it’s safe to say that I’ve made more than a few!  I bring this idea into our classroom discussions every day. 


The main focus of my nearly 17 years at WES has been in the Early Childhood program, truly a joyful place!  In addition to Kindergarten, during my tenure at WES I have taught Pre-K 3, Pre-K 4, middle school Latin, and the middle school Academic Studies Class.  My 2 sons, both WES graduates, would tell you that truly my raison d’etre was to embarrass them while they were students here!  My personal philosophy is to never stand still, and by that I mean to constantly learn and grow.  A “recovering lawyer,” I was formerly Assistant General Counsel at The Nature Conservancy.  Along with the requisite J.D. (Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology), I also hold an advanced law degree, an LL.M. in international law from the Georgetown University Law Center.  Never one to stray too far from Georgetown, my undergraduate degree was through the School of Foreign Service, where I majored in economics and Mandarin.
When I’m not teaching, I can usually be found nagging my long-suffering husband Steve and our 3 adult children, Colleen, Patrick, and Brendan!  With any time left over, I am doing my part to help resuscitate the nearly dead Irish language, spending hours each week struggling to master labyrinthine grammatical concepts and mysterious vocabulary.  Finally, my husband and I love to bike long distances together.  We have fun kicking off the spring season by annually participating in a 40-mile bike ride through the streets and highways around New York City.