Joyce Wyatt: Never stop learning or teaching

Beth KinnaneBearden, Cedar Bluff, Get Up & Go

Some people never fully grasp the concept of retirement. While working for pay may cease at some point on their life’s trajectory, the notion of a life of leisure never quite fully settles in. Joyce Cope Wyatt is one of those people.

Though she will turn a spry 94 in May, Wyatt continues to teach her weekly Bible studies classes at Central Baptist Church of Bearden (CBCB). While the Covid-19 pandemic presented plenty of obstacles over the past year, Wyatt stepped up to the challenge and learned to teach via ZOOM. Well, sort of….

“Well, I think I am getting way too much credit here,” Wyatt said. “Someone else sets it up for me. Then I join in and take over with teaching my class.”

Joyce Wyatt

Indeed, Wyatt said, it started when interim young adult minister Val Fisk set up her own laptop in the church library for Wyatt to use. Ever since, she drives or has someone drive her from her home in Cedar Bluff every Wednesday to teach her Bible studies course. The class is ongoing, and those unable to join in live can submit for an email link to watch later.

Though Wyatt wasn’t able to take the full leap into managing the new technology, her efforts are no less extraordinary and indicative of a life invested in learning and teaching.

Wyatt was born in Rogersville, where her father was a school superintendent and owned Cope’s School and Office Supply. She grew up in the Hiram Fain Spring Vale Farm House, an 1829 federal style brick home on Main Street in the Rogersville Historic District. She received a master’s in religious education from Southern Seminary, a master’s in adult education from North Carolina State, and a master’s of divinity from Southeastern Seminary.

While at Southern Seminary, she met her late husband, Roy, and they embarked on a life of missionary work.

“I spent most of my life, before retirement anyway, out of the United States,” Wyatt said. Their time overseas included 10 years living in Spain, three years in Chile and 26 years in Columbia. When it was time to retire, they decided on Knoxville as one of their three children had her home here. They joined Central Baptist Bearden, and in no short order, both became very active in their chosen church.

Wyatt is, understandably, fluent in Spanish and has authored several books in her first and second languages. Several years ago, she helped organize “Tu Dia” (Your Day), a day of learning and companionship for Hispanic and Latina women in Knoxville. She volunteers with ESL students in area schools. This is just scraping the surface of what she has done and continues to do.

While the pandemic has cut back on in-person engagement, Wyatt has found ways to stay involved.

“I do a lot through email,” she said. “I am able to participate, promoting better opportunities and understanding for the Hispanic community.”

In the meantime, Wyatt said things are slowly moving back toward something that feels like normal. She’s received both of her Covid vaccine shots, but still practices social distancing, mask wearing and keeping herself fit. And she has no plans to stop teaching anytime soon.

“The church has been very enabling in so many ways. They have really blessed me,” Wyatt said. “I am strengthened when I teach. It gives me energy. And I am grateful to the Lord.”

Beth Kinnane is community editor for

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