A Desire To Keep Busy Fills Naperville Resident's Life With Adventure

Her greatest achievement, she says, is one of life’s simpler tasks.

To say that resident Joan Nortell has seen and done it all would be an understatement.

She has been camel-back riding in Morocco. She has worked as a tour guide in the Amazon and taken part in archaeological digs in Greece and Turkey. She is a former child model and actress who appeared in hundreds of thousands of comic books across the country. She survived an 80 m.p.h. train wreck in Paris, a plane crash in Peru, and a motorcycle accident in Holland.

Closer to home, Nortell is a graduate of the Lisle Citizens Police Academy and has her artwork proudly displayed at doctor’s offices throughout DuPage County. The mother of three boys, she currently serves as a precinct committeewoman and works full-time as a records clerk in the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office.

“I like to keep busy,” Nortell said. “Life is full of adventure and I am truly grateful for every day I have been given.”

Nortell graduated from Maine East High School in Park Ridge before taking her studies to Northwestern University. While there, she majored in both Spanish and French and was named one of four outstanding junior women.

She began her life of adventure in school and studied in Canada, Spain, Peru, and Mexico. After graduating and receiving her Masters of Art in Teaching, at just 20 years of age, she began teaching Spanish in the Chicago area.

She didn’t stay put for long and traveled to Germany, Paris, and Brussels. While overseas, she taught and coached volleyball at Hague American International High School in Holland, Netherlands.

She returned to the states to continue her education at Loyola Graduate School where she earned her master's degree in anthropology with specialization in linguistics.

After Loyola and a brief stint at a law office in Chicago, Nortell returned to teaching. Her instructing career was put on hiatus, however, when she took time to raise her three children –all of whom went on to graduate from North Central College in Naperville with honors.

She reentered the teaching world in 1990 teaching Spanish at the College of DuPage where, she was recognized three times in the Who’s Who of American College Teachers – an honor just 1 percent of instructors receive.

Her adventures keep her closer to home these days, where she can be found creating works of art or reading, but not staring at a television – she cancelled her cable. She also enjoys kayaking and hiking; once hiking and white-water rafting in Costa Rica.

But for all her accomplishments and adventures, you might be surprised to learn what Nortell considers her greatest achievement.

“Learning to tie my shoes,” she said. “The academic achievements came easy for me but when I was four or five years old and learned how to tie my own shoes, I couldn’t have been prouder.”


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