Joany Raina grew up in a row-home neighborhood outside of Philadelphia and knew at a very early age that her heart would someday be rooted in the colors of the desert.
She has had several careers, all of which have revolved around theatrical arts and early education. After working in the public school system for many years, she left to train student teachers in an international school in Quito, Ecuador. Wanting to further immerse herself in the culture, she moved out of teacher’s housing and into a neighborhood where she only heard Spanish. She opened a cafe, painting life-size cartoon flower gardens on the walls and naming it “Encuentros.”
Upon returning to the States several years later, Joany was fortunate to work for an independent Quaker school on the outskirts of Philadelphia, developing a thematic curriculum for their elementary programs. Joany became the program’s lead teacher and eventually immersed herself in playwriting, songwriting, and overall dramatic play as a vehicle for enriching her Native American and Underground Railroad curriculums. Year after year she returned to the Southwest on school stipend proposals, visiting pueblos and Hopi kachina carvers, taking journaling workshops at Ghost Ranch, forever writing poems, and doodling her own brand of cartoon characters, which would later show up in her summer greeting card business.
Joany has ADD (attention deficit disorder) which she continues to see as a gift and a challenge in connecting to the world in less conventional ways. It allowed for much needed innovative work with high-functioning autistic children as well as children who benefited from alternative opportunities to learn, think, and explore within a conventional school system.
She produced a musical audio book, The Kingdom of Should, for kids on the autistic spectrum, playing almost all of the characters as well as creating an interactive online coloring book as a companion to the story.
Masks and puppet making became increasingly integral to her work in helping her students to find their voices and use dramatic play as a vehicle for expression.
And so after 35 years it was no surprise to return to a place where there is always a new trail to explore, magnificent creative-making going on everywhere you look, and a deep spiritual way of being, tugging at your toes.