"Probably the biggest thing I've learned over 31 years is that life isn't always without mistakes. Find the mistake, fix it and move on. Be accountable. Tell people it's your fault and then fix it. That's how you rebuild trust."
For John Joynt, coming full circle in 31 years as a student, teacher, principal, and finally Superintendent in the Emmetsburg Community School District has been a non-stop learning experience. That experience will come to a close on June 30, when Joynt will walk out of the Superintendent's office at Emmetsburg for the last time.
For a person to end up as the leader of the school district they attended as a youth is somewhat of a rarity. In Joynt's case, there was almost never a career path. "I really never planned on going to college when I was in school. No one in my family had attended college, and I just figured I'd stay home and farm."
LOOKING?BACK - Superintendent John Joynt is winding down a 31-year career as an educator in Emmetsburg. He will retire on June 30. -- Dan Voigt photo
But as they say, fate intervened. Friends, Jim Joynt and Mike Brennan, urged Joynt to take some classes at Iowa Lakes Community College. He enrolled, and quickly grew interested in furthering his education, with some guidance from a couple of instructors.
"Steve Peterson and his brother Stan Peterson taught Industrial Technology and were wrestling coaches. They're the ones who got me interested in continuing my education and were just super influences on me to attend college." Joynt said.
Joynt went on after attending classes at Iowa Lakes and attended Iowa State University, where he earned his education degree in Industrial Technology in 1981. Joynt found a job at Galena, Ill, teaching Industrial Tech, and also coaching wrestling and football.
"I can state that we were never able to implement I-Right Belly at Galena," Joynt laughed. "When I got the job, I got a copy of the play from Coach Duane Twait and tried to get it going in Galena, but it just wouldn't go. But, our wrestling team did enjoy some success over time, because worked hard and over time, that hard work began to pay off."
While things were going good in Illinois, Joynt and his high school sweetheart, Sue, who had gotten married in 1979, got an opportunity to come home in 1983. A vacancy for Industrial Technology opened in the Emmetsburg Community School District in 1983, and the Joynt family came back home.
"It was a great opportunity to come back home for our family," Joynt reflected. "I started out with Industrial Tech, and then switched to Social Studies at the Middle School before eventually being appointed the department head. I also got to teach and coach wrestling with Clint Young, who was a great mentor in both wrestling and life for me."
Joynt's educational career continued to climb, as he was named curriculum director in 1997 at the Middle School and when Middle School Principal Dean Newlon retired in 2001, Joynt was hired to assume that position. Just four years later, in 2005, Joynt became the Superintendent of the district.
"At that time, the district had eliminated the middle school principal position, with the high school and elementary principals overseeing the middle school. I didn't have my Superintendent's licensure completed, but the school board had the faith in me to do the job," Joynt reflected. "I got a one year temporary licensure and completed my coursework to become certified."
Serving as the Superintendent since 2005, Joynt and the school district have seen great changes, not only in student population, but in the physical facilities as well.
For Joynt, one of his proudest accomplishment in nine years as leader of the district was passing a bond issue to construct the new Middle School complex and. "Passing a $7.4 million bond issue by over 60 percent was not easy," Joynt admitted, "especially after two defeats. But, I give Max Strube a lot of credit for helping make that happen. He was a great supporter and really helped people to understand what we wanted to do. And, the School Board also deserves a great deal of the credit for what we have today."
Being a successful teacher and coach are also personal accomplishments Joynt is proud of, as well as actually getting his education and continuing that education over the years.
"We're also proud of being able to fund our latest project at West Elementary without needing to bond for it," Joynt added. "We were able to use the state penny sales tax to pay for most of the project, leaving our Physical Plant and Equipment Levy for other things desperately needed in the district."
Raising three children with his wife in his hometown has also been a source of pride for Joynt.
"My kids were able to come through the same district, receive all the academics and enjoy the athletic and extra curricular activities that my wife and I did," Joynt said. "Those small town experiences and opportunities mean so much."
Joynt continued, "I've had such great support, first from my wife and family, and from great coaches like Duane Twait, Greg Sween, Clint Young and others who helped shape my vision. I had a great staff at the Middle School to work with when I started. It was such a veteran staff, they made learning and working easy. Then, working with Pat Swanson, a 30-year veteran, along with all the Superintendents in the state and the Lakes Conference, we all work together."
In 31 years, technology has been the area of greatest impact for Joynt. "When I was at Iowa State, we had to put quarters in an IBM Electric typewriter to type with instead of a manual typewriter. Then we went to Apple computers, then PC's, laptops and now the one-to-one for students. We have wireless technology, Google sharing documents so lots of people can see the same document and work on it. While technology doesn't guarantee improvement it helps get students ready for the next step in their lives."
While Emmetsburg loses not only Joynt, but several other faculty members this year to retirement, he views such changes as both a negative and a positive.
"Losing people like Dave and Kelley Fog, Linda Welander, Dave Ballman, Karen Brown, Christy White, Rita Garrelts and Ted Riley, sure, we're taking a lot of experience out of the district," Joynt admitted. "But, you also have to look at it in the terms that we're also going to gain some new ways of teaching, new enthusiasm and new personalities in our district and community. There are more ways that just 'my way' to do things."
Joynt is proud of Emmetsburg's educational offerings and opportunities for students. "I like to see the kids do well," Joynt said. "But, all of our students do well, using the education they get here. Sometimes it takes a little growing up on their part before they realize their success, but they find it."
But as the days count down and the memories are reviewed, Joynt will cherish one memory in particular.
"I will always remember the very first event we held in the new auditorium, the Homecoming Coronation," Joynt said. "Every seat was filled, people were standing along the walls. It was so great to see the building project finally finished, which meant construction was over on a huge project that had something for everybody modern middle school classrooms, a new gym and the auditorium. It was just a great way to bring that project to a close."