Life shaped by passion for learning, teaching

By Jessica Wilson '05

As a young elementary student, Joan Gundershaug Breece '65 was always helping with the slower children in class and being an assistant to a teacher in the lower grades. She knew then that teaching was her calling. She taught first grade for 32 years and fourth grade for the last five years before retiring in 2003 from the Moraga (Calif.) School District. She never tired of the life of an educator. "Every day in a classroom is different, every class is so different," she said. "Each day brought new challenges and the children daily gave me the reward of seeing them grow and progress intellectually."

Her studies at Pacific prepared her well for a career in teaching, she said. The education classes Breece took were small in size and she received lot of personal attention. She added that she found the professors caring and nurturing. "Pacific was always current with the new trends in education but provided a solid base. The education was practical, not just educational theory."

Breece never was drawn to the side of administration during her education career. Her real love, she said, is for the children and she always hated being out of the classroom. "There is nothing more exciting than watching a child learn to read and seeing a whole new world open up to a child," she said.

Through her years as a teacher, Breece said she has found that children learn differently so being a solid teacher that uses many varied approaches is important. Her work and talent were recognized in 1990 when she was selected as Moraga Teacher of the Year.

Breece has not completely retired from teaching. At the Lafeyette-Orinda Presbyterian Church she is the Bible study coordinator and has taught Bible study in the past year to kindergarten and third grade students.

However, with more time out of the classroom available, Breece is putting the tire to the road. She and her husband, Conrad, began biking two years ago and were introduced to the excitement of European biking by friends. They have traveled to Italy, riding through tobacco fields and olive groves. In June, they visited the Dordogne region of France. For 10 days they rode through fields of poppies, forests, and toured castles and caves filled with ancient drawings. "When you ride a bike you really see and smell the countryside," said Breece.

Breece has continued her education over the years by taking courses at the University of San Francisco Fromm Institute. The classes have varied from political science to poetry to literature to history. "I feel that life long learning is what keeps me excited about living. I only wish all people could have the chance to broaden their knowledge daily."

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