Volunteer Spotlight: Joyce Thompson
Tuesdays are always busy for Joyce Thompson, but she doesn’t mind because they are filled with dancing. Joyce spends her Tuesday mornings volunteering at a Heart of Dance partner school in Maplewood before dashing across town to her own dance lesson. Although she retired ten years ago, she likes to keep herself on her toes. “When I’m done, I’m tired!” she says. But it’s worth it for Joyce to see her fifth grade students enjoy learning to dance: “You can tell their favorite dances by the smiles on their faces.”
Joyce has been volunteering with Heart of Dance since its founding in 2015, and is a Classroom Assistant. This semester, she’s helping Teaching Artist Bonnie Inveen in two classrooms at Harambee Elementary School. Depending on the class, you might find Joyce leading or following, while always providing one-on-one support to the young dancers. Heather Johnson, whom Joyce assisted last fall, describes Joyce’s warm presence in the classroom: “I’m so thankful to have Ms. Joyce in class. She is patient and kind. And she can individualize the teaching for each student, which is so helpful.” Indeed, Joyce exudes generosity with her time and expertise, volunteering with Dancing Classrooms two mornings per week.
Joyce grew up in a small town in central Minnesota where there weren’t many opportunities to dance. “I grew up in an age when we saw Arthur Murray on TV, and we thought, ‘wouldn’t that be wonderful?’” Joyce recalls. After moving to the Twin Cities to pursue a career in nursing, she began dancing in 1993, and in 1995 became a USA Dance board member. This is how she learned about Heart of Dance, and was moved to get involved.
In the spring of 2016, Joyce got an extra-special volunteer assignment: she was the assistant for her granddaughter Rachel’s Dancing Classroom at Harambee Elementary. As the semester progressed, Joyce saw Rachel’s self-confidence grow along with her classmates.“ It was amazing to observe the culminating event,” Joyce reflects. “They pulled it all together, taking on the roles of performers. They presented themselves being proud of their accomplishments, and acting like ladies and gentlemen.”
After spending last fall volunteering at Benjamin Mays IB World School in St. Paul, Joyce is back at Harambee this spring—much to the excitement of this year’s dancers, who recognize her as Rachel’s grandma. And the semester is off to a good start: the students have already learned the Merengue and Foxtrot, begun the Rumba, and are having fun with the Stomp.
“After five sessions, you can see the students becoming more relaxed and having fun,” Joyce observes. “To see that progress—it makes you feel good.”