About the Executive Director
Joyce Hutchens, Executive Director
Joyce Hutchens has blended her love for teaching with her opposition to discrimination and commitment to civil rights, and has founded On My Own Project, a woman and minority-owned nonprofit 501(c)(3), anti-discrimination and social justice education outreach project for those who have experienced employment and housing discrimination and retaliation. Hutchens launched On My Own Project in August 2021— six years after the end of a long federal court battle against her former employer, the Chicago Board of Education, who violated multiple civil rights laws and discriminated and retaliated against her. She ultimately won the dispute in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in 2015, where she proceeded pro se after being abandoned twice by her attorneys. Following her court victory, Hutchens authored “How A Pro Se Won Justice: An Inside Look at an Educator’s Stunning Civil Rights-Employment Victory Against the Chicago Board of Education in the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.”
Before filing her lawsuit on December 22, 2009, Hutchens had taught English, speech, journalism and business education for the Chicago Public Schools since 1994. Prior to becoming a teacher, she held various administrative positions with Fortune 500 companies, including IBM and Amoco.
In 1999, Hutchens left her teaching position at Chicago’s Lincoln Park High School, and founded JDH Training & Communications Group, a training and consulting firm. The company was born of her vision to combine her diverse employment experiences in private industry and education to help others improve personal and professional performance. She has trained adults for more than two decades, including providing one-on-one coaching to employees seeking individualized instruction to develop their business and writing skills.
Because of the perseverance, commitment, creativity and unequaled strength she demonstrated in expanding her business and helping others succeed, on September 7, 2000, Hutchens received from the Women’s Business Development Center of Chicago (WBDC), the Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year Award, and was inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame. The WBDC serves as an advocate for women business owners and assists them with securing SBA financing, WBE certification, and public and private sector procurement opportunities.
Hutchens returned to teaching in 2002 and specifically requested to teach English and journalism at Consuela B. York Alternative High School, which is a Chicago Public School located in the Cook County Jail. She taught male and female student inmates in the Maximum Security, Women’s and Medical Divisions of the jail and considers it the best job she has ever had in her life. She taught at the jail until 2008 when she transferred to the Chicago Board of Education’s Professional Development Division, where she worked until 2009 when her employment ended with the school district.
A native Chicagoan, Hutchens holds master’s degrees in journalism and education from Roosevelt University and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Columbia College Chicago. In 2007, she achieved National Board Certification in English/language Arts. National Board Certification is the nation’s highest teaching credential, and is recognized as the gold standard in teaching. She also holds State of Illinois secondary education teaching certifications in English/language arts and journalism, and middle school certifications in business, marketing and management. Hutchens has received numerous awards and recognitions for her excellence in teaching.