Oakley teacher becomes an American

OAKLEY — Joanne White knows the U.S. Constitution inside and out. She has taught U.S. history for nearly five years to kids and adults, but only recently became an American citizen.

“It wasn’t easy,” she said

Today, Joanne stands proud in her second-grade classroom at Oakley Elementary School as an American. Joanne joined 72 people from 21 different counties in a naturalization ceremony at the Ada County Courthouse on Nov. 30. Joanne had dreamed of becoming an American citizen since she was a child.

“It’s easier to succeed in the United States,” she said. “I’ve waited years for his moment.”

She came to the U.S. from Canada 12 years ago with her two daughters and husband. Her husband took a job in Minnesota on a work visa, but Joanne had to wait to get her own visa. She couldn’t work or teach. Joanne’s family went from two incomes down to one. She spent 18 years teaching in Manitoba, Canada, before moving.

“It was tough,” she said.

Joanne volunteered for five years, 30 hours a week, as a substitute teacher at a private school and a nursing home.

“I had worked all my life and I didn’t know how to sit at home and do nothing.”

Joanne’s family decided to go through the process toward citizenship. It took her seven years to get a green card, which allowed her to work. Joanne then got a substitute teaching license in Minnesota.

She received a social security number in 2010 and started teaching citizenship to immigrants. She was in the same position as her students and learning about the naturalization process, which involves applications, interviews and tests.

“My students and I had the same dream,” she said.

Joanne and her family moved to Burley in 2015 for her husband’s job. She started teaching for the Cassia County School District while waiting to become an American.

“I teach my students how great it is to live in the United States,” she said.

Joanne is looking forward to voting in the Idaho primary election in May and reporting for jury duty.

“It will be an honor,” she said.


Andrew Reed

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