Joyce Arnold, a gifted teacher who was passionate about education, fascinated by indigenous culture, and loved to cook, read, and spend time with her son, Evan, her family, and her many friends, lost her battle with cancer on Feb. 28, 2019. She was 61.
Joyce began her teaching career in 1999, when she became a fourth-grade teacher at Clover Valley Elementary School in the Oak Harbor School District. When Clover Valley closed in 2007, she transferred to Broad View Elementary where she taught third and fourth grade until her retirement in 2017.
As a teacher, Joyce was best known for her work with gifted and talented students in Oak Harbor’s GATE program. As Superintendent Lance Gibbon said, “Joyce got GATE students. She understood how they thought and had a special ability to connect with them and help them achieve incredible things.”
Teaching was Joyce’s life, and she worked long hours prepping for her class, meeting with parents, and coming up with creative and sometimes provocative projects that engaged her students. She also brought her deep interest in indigenous culture into the classroom, organizing field trips to Ebey’s Prairie where she and others discussed its rich pre-Euro-American history.
When illness forced her to retire in 2017, she was quickly recruited to serve on the board of the Island County Historical Museum, where she was elected to the position of secretary and dived into curriculum work and organizational administration.
Joyce Lynn Harkin was born Oct. 27, 1957, the second of three children to Paul and Carolyn Harkin. She grew up in California, moving with her family from Walnut Creek to Santa Monica and, eventually, to Cupertino, where her father taught anatomy and physiology at Foothill College and her mother taught high school and worked in library science.
Joyce was gifted in languages. She studied German in junior and senior high school and spent her junior year of high school as an exchange student in Germany. She was fluent in both German and French. She also developed a love of literature during her teen years; as a young woman, she spent her summers working at a beloved Cupertino bookstore: A Clean, Well-Lighted Place for Books.
Joyce attended De Anza College for her freshman and sophomore years, then transferred to Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., graduating in 1979 with a degree in English. After graduating, she moved to Seattle and began working in the children’s section of the University Bookstore, where, among other things, she wrote short, insightful reviews of her favorite children’s books.
In 1983, she married Herb Arnold, a Navy airman whom she had met at Whitman. Herb’s career took them to Pensacola, Fla., and Stuttgart, Germany, where their son, Evan, was born in 1989. They returned to Coupeville when Evan was 2 and later spent one and half years in Paris. Joyce and Herb later divorced.
After pursuing a graduate degree in English literature, she launched into her teaching career, a profession she found deeply rewarding. She was singularly focused on teaching, routinely staying up far too late to develop curricula, explore new technologies, grade homework, and more.
But she was also a devoted mother to Evan, supporting him in his own academic achievements and enjoying summertime trips with him to California, where they visited her extended family. She found time, too, for her many friends — women she knew from her childhood in California, from college, and from teaching and who loved her wry sense of humor, her insights into politics, her warmth, wit, and keen interest in others.
Last fall, six of her friends gathered at her home in Coupeville to celebrate her 61st birthday, where they stayed up late talking about their lives, literature, politics, and Joyce’s favorite program, “The Great British Baking Show.”
Joyce’s family was also important to her. She cherished her visits with her sister Joan in Burlington and her brother Art and his wife, Leslie, in San Jose. After her mother’s death in 1998, she also devoted time to her father, Paul.
She enjoyed long walks at Ebey’s Prairie, delighted in Coupeville’s quirky charm, excelled at word games, and brought a creative spirit to cooking, her home, and her garden. Friends and family considered her a gracious woman and a consummate host.
Joyce is survived by her son Evan Arnold, her sister Joan Harkin, her brother Arthur Harkin (Leslie Harkin), her father Paul Harkin, her nieces Hannah Gabriel and Sarah Harkin and her nephew Ethan Harkin, her aunts Marian Rollins and Virginia Martin, and many cousins.
A service will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 5, at Greenbank Farm at 765 Wonn Road on Whidbey Island. In lieu of flowers, relatives and friends are encouraged to send donations in Joyce’s name to the Island County Historical Society, PO Box 305, Coupeville, Wash., 98239.