Teachable moments lead to a career in law

December 03, 2012

Penn State Law student Joy Simpson has devoted her career to helping young people fulfill their dreams. She taught in Florida public and parochial high schools as well as community college, typically focusing on English literature, writing and composition. Yet when a teaching colleague died suddenly, she asked herself whether teaching was the career in which she wanted to spend the rest of her life.

“I always taught my students to be the person they want to be, to follow their dreams and live a life without regrets. I taught Thoreau. We discussed living deliberately, living an examined life, and sucking the marrow out of the bones of life, so to speak.” She paused to explain that she is not normally a big Transcendentalist and did not really talk about bone marrow that often. “I knew I was talking the talk and now it was time to walk the walk and act on my dreams.”

Excellence in Teaching

To Simpson, law school is “boot camp for the brain.” She appreciates the teaching styles she has encountered so far, including Professor Nancy Welsh and her enthusiasm for pushing students to be better thinkers and advocates, and Professor Gary Gildin’s passion for civil rights and courtroom advocacy.

“Having taught I understand the humanity and empathy it takes to be effective in the classroom. And there’s not a single teacher here who wouldn’t bend over backwards for us,” she said. “Munch with Mogill” is one of her favorite examples. Professor Michael Mogill invites groups of first-year students to sign up for lunch with him on a regular basis. “It’s amazing how just having a meal with a professor outside of the classroom context affirms our mutual humanity. I just love that.”

Career Plans

Simpson is particularly motivated to pursue a career in education law. In addition to her time in the classroom, she is the parent of a son who is on the autistic spectrum. “Pennsylvania has been fantastic as far as social services and helping my son acclimate to a new school,” she remarked. “It’s a much different attitude than you see in Florida, where lots of special needs kids are just on their own.”

Simpson thinks she will enjoy litigation. “I’ve learned so much from Professor Gildin and his passion and dedication for justice and civil rights. I could see myself doing that.” She can also see herself getting into a legal clinic as soon as possible, ideally to help people with education and disability law matters.

  • Penn State Law student Joy Simpson taught English and composition classes in Florida, but always dreamed of a career in law.

    IMAGE: Pam Knowlton

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Last Updated July 22, 2015