GMercyU Education Alumna Joan'na Pray

Meet Joan'na Pray

Education, 2018

Current Position: Third Grade Teacher at St. Malachy's in Philadelphia

Story Last Updated: June 2018
Current Position Updated: October 2019

When I was little, I was one of those kids who wanted to be a doctor or a nurse. I knew I wanted to do something that had to do with kids but as I got older I quickly realized I hate doctors and I hate needles so that wasn’t an option. So, it came down to being a child psychologist or a teacher. 

Once I started college, I picked teaching and fell in love with it. I fell in love with the different curriculums around the country and how hard education is pushed in different countries around the world. One of the things that really set the path for me to be a teacher was interacting with so many kids from different backgrounds and getting to know each of their stories. Being a teacher that shows that you care for your students and wants to them to push themselves really impacts you as a person. 

I didn’t originally start college at Gwynedd Mercy University; I transferred from another school. My mom was the first person to recommend GMercyU because she is a graduate. I quickly realized GMercyU's School of Education has a lot more to offer than most colleges. One thing that set GMercyU apart from my old school was that there, they only required 11 credits in order for you to graduate with an education certification and even then you couldn't major in it, only minor in it. When I started here, however, GMercyU set me up with so many courses and all of them were so different than what I had before. All of my special education courses were compact and intensive, and very informative versus before when I only had one special education course. 

At GMercyU, all of the teachers are so engaged and helpful. If they see you slacking, they reach out and generally show that they care. For me, that shows that GMercyU is really cool. There’s so many different courses to choose from and the campus is amazing.  

Student Teaching Experience

St. Malachy's is a school in North Philadelphia, which is where I'm from. It's a low-income neighborhood and very close-by to where I live. When I started teaching there in 2015 with GMercyU's TAP program, I first observed teachers, the first being the school’s first-grade teacher. She was amazing. She always wanted to be with her kids and help them. That's when I knew this was the school I wanted to be at. This school is so loving and they really care about their kids. The second reason why I wanted to stay there was that a majority of the kids there are black students, something I can relate to. I understand a lot of their backgrounds. I felt like I needed to be here. It's where I see myself being. 

Luckily, I was offered two positions for after graduation. One was a full-time librarian position and the other was a Kindergarten teacher. I accepted the position as a Kindergarten teacher at St. Malachy’s. I am now a third grade teacher at St. Malachy's, after serving in the Kindergarten role for one school year. 

GMercyU Difference

GMercyU is very engaged and intensive. You have teachers that care and are engaged with their students. You'll never feel like you can't talk to your professors or that they don't have enough time for you. For me, I love that this is a small school. The classes are perfect. At most I had 20 students in my class so I didn't have to worry about the professor not giving me feedback.

GMercyU is also very accommodating. As a member of the Student Government Association and GMAECY, I'm able to listen to a lot of student concerns and ideas. GMercyU isn't a school where a student presents an idea and it's immediately shut down. They really do their best to accommodate or at least take the time to listen and give their best solution. 

I think being a Distinctive Mercy Graduate is taking the values I learned at GMercyU and carrying them with me in my life and not just my career. A lot of the Mercy values such as diversity, immigration and helping those who are unfortunate, I take with me not just as a teacher but as a person.