Back to: Alliance Blog

Celebrating the Life of Dr. Joan Bissell, Linked Learning Champion

September 16, 2020 | Linked Learning Alliance

It is with profound sadness that we share with the Linked Learning field news about the passing of Joan Bissell, one of our greatest leaders and champions, on September 11, 2020. We offer our deepest condolences to her husband, Stanley Newhoff, daughter Elizabeth (Betsy), stepdaughters, Michelle and Angela, and four granddaughters.

Joan touched so many of us personally and professionally. Her death leaves much to mourn, but also much to celebrate about her life accomplishments. Joan leaves a legacy that will continue to have a lasting impact on students’ lives - the future leaders of California and our nation.

It is hard to view our field today and not recognize Joan’s central role in its evolution - as a friend, a groundbreaking force for systemic change and as one of the kindest, smartest and fiercest advocates for our movement and our shared aspirations for young people.

After 15 years of outstanding service, Joan retired from her role as Director for Teacher Education, Educator Preparation and Public School Programs in the California State University Chancellor’s Office in February 2019. During her tenure, Joan provided leadership and support to countless systemwide initiatives and programs, building on an extraordinary career in education that rightly earned her legendary status in the world of teacher preparation.

For all of us who were privileged to work with her as the Linked Learning movement began, Joan was a key partner in the development and expansion of teacher pathways. She assisted in the identification of critical policy changes to address the need for qualified Linked Learning teachers, and served as the Chancellor’s Office liaison with the CSU Collaborative for the Advancement of Linked Learning - a statewide consortium of CSU campuses led by CSU Long Beach that has achieved major advances in the preparation of new teachers, counselors and administrators to be Linked Learning leaders in regions throughout California. In her role at CSU, Joan established Linked Learning as a priority, forging significant connections with partners, identifying key opportunities, and encouraging a broader research agenda supportive of the Linked Learning field.

Deservedly, Joan was selected by the Linked Learning field to receive the 2017 Linked Learning Educator Champion Award. The work Joan started is far from finished. She has left us with a clear directive and solid foundation to continue the important work that she started in partnership with us all. The Alliance is exploring ways to honor Joan’s legacy through an award program that recognizes the extraordinary Linked Learning educators whom Joan so tirelessly supported throughout her career.

We owe her so much, we will miss her daily, and will honor her memory by staying true to the collective vision she helped us imagine.