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Meet Dr. Banks-Hunt, Director of Upper School

From the time she was a five-year-old in Atlanta, Ga., Dr. Joanie Banks-Hunt knew she wanted to earn a doctorate. What she didn’t know is that the road to that doctorate would be filled with a true love of academics, serendipitous choices, and dogged perseverance.

“My educational purpose is to give back as much as I have received from education, because nothing has mattered more to me than the joy of learning,” says Dr. Banks-Hunt.

After earning two master’s degrees in different areas of engineering at Stanford, she spent nearly two decades working in the U.S. and abroad for tech-industry giants, focused on the design of emerging networks. One of the things she enjoyed most about her job was mentoring new engineers and taking part in outreach to local high schools. Eventually, she realized that teaching was her calling.


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She became an engineering teacher at the Menlo School, a private independent school in northern California. She worked there for 14 years, eventually becoming Dean of the 10th grade class. During her tenure, Dr. Banks-Hunt pioneered the first engineering curriculum and STEM program for girls and spearheaded the transformation of the school’s basement into a 10,000-square-foot applied science and engineering lab. 

Next, she led faculty professional development at Virginia Tech, where she earned the doctorate degree she’d always dreamed about, delivering a dissertation in educational psychology. In 2021, she joined Wildwood.

According to Dr. Banks-Hunt, meaningful learning is informed and differentiated by faculty, mentors, friends, and role models. It is enabled by technology, innovation, creativity, inclusive collaborations, and doing what it takes to see hard work culminate into proud moments.

“When I first heard about Wildwood, I thought, ‘Wow, this is a cool school,’” says Dr. Banks-Hunt. “Wildwood students are highly self-aware. Everywhere I turn, I meet students who are really interested in the value of learning. In 12th grade literature, for example, I see that they are not only reading for perspective, but they’re also reading for introspection and for a connection to bigger issues.”

When Dr. Banks-Hunt made the decision to join Wildwood, she did so because she felt that the school’s philosophy, mission, and values meshed so perfectly with the kinds of experience taking place in higher education. 

“Helping students make the transition from high school to college is my greatest joy,” says Dr. Banks-Hunt. “It is my belief that educators shape students’ passion for knowledge. We transfer our academic passion to our students to prepare them for the complex, ever-changing socio-technological world in which they live”.