MNPS Voices: Dr. Joy Guss

Dr. Joy Guss, Equity and Diversity Coach
Posted on 10/21/2021
Dr. Joy Guss

Dr. Joy Guss has been with Metro Nashville Public Schools for more than 16 years, working to change lives, hearts, and minds.

Guss served as a school counselor at John Overton High, Bellevue Middle, and Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School before transitioning into her current role of Equity and Diversity Coach three years ago. Dr. Joy Guss

Within the Equity and Diversity department, Guss designs and implements trainings for MNPS faculty and staff on implicit bias, cultural literacy, and mitigating racial harm in schools.

The training sessions last anywhere from an hour or so to 10-week deep-dive equity book studies on the Schoology platform. Guss collaborates with principals to expose faculty and staff to these trainings, and when necessary she supports individual employees with specific coaching surrounding the books or training sessions.

Although Guss grew up in Kentucky on a small tobacco farm, education was always at the forefront for her family. She graduated from Western Kentucky University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, then earned a master’s in school counseling from WKU, an Education Specialist degree in accountability and instructional leadership from Trevecca Nazarene University, and a doctorate in leadership and professional studies from Trevecca.

She is a fourth-generation teacher on her mother’s side and the first in her family to earn a doctorate.

“My father was the first person in his family to graduate from college, and he became a schoolteacher and then a principal. We used the resources from the farm to supplement his income,” Guss said.

She believes her upbringing played a major role in her career choice today. “I knew I always wanted to be a teacher; however, I was more interested in the social development of children, which led me into school counseling,” Guss said. School counseling subsequently led Guss into the work that she loves today, which is social advocacy for children.

During this pandemic season, the Equity and Diversity department has worked on strategies to provide input on how to best serve MNPS families who have been historically marginalized.

“I think we have a great opportunity to reimagine public education and begin to fully and equitably serve populations which have been marginalized for decades,” Guss said. “I truly believe this will elevate everyone, and we can be a model for other parts of the country to follow.”

She said equity work is about shifting hearts and minds and supports the idea that through long-term education, trainings, and uncomfortable conversations, this can help alleviate stereotypes and biases.

When Guss is not working to redirect conversations in meaningful, productive, and adaptive ways, she enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter and taking her dog to the dog park.


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