Sister Joan Riordan grew up in the Sunset District of San Francisco. “I was introduced to the Presentation sisters when my mother enrolled me in first grade at St. Anne’s, our parish school.” After eight enjoyable years at St. Anne’s, Sister Joan enrolled in the Academy of the Presentation or AOP, later to become Presentation High School, San Francisco.

The eldest of five siblings in an intergenerational family, Sister Joan enjoyed family events and vacations throughout Northern California. Besides school, activities included Irish Step Dancing, Scouting, ice skating, biking, church sponsored ski trips, and school choir. In high school, journalism became her all engrossing elective for three years, serving as editor of the school paper, The Reflector, in her senior year. At this time, her career plans included foreign service or becoming a foreign correspondent.

Sisters Rosemary Campi and Joan Riordan, lakeside during one of their trips.

“Throughout my life, some of my most memorable moments have been my experiences in Nature from my parents’ and grandparents’ backyards to the beauty of Golden Gate Park and Ocean beach in San Francisco, to the beauty of our National Parks, mountain and shores, the wild coasts of Ireland, the scenic rivers and majestic mountains of Europe, or skiing in the Sierras. I have been further enriched by having shared camping and natural science field trips throughout the United States with biologist, Sister Rosemary Campi, PBVM or attending an ecology conference and making retreat in Assisi, Italy all of which broadened my understanding of the relationships connecting all of God’s creation.”

But it was during a visit with her former eighth grade teacher that Sister Mary Grace Huegle, PBVM, asked if Joan had ever thought of religious life. “I put that thought firmly out of my mind for as long as I could, but as God’s call persisted, I answered and entered our Novitiate in San Francisco.” Growing up in an Irish Catholic family, the story of Nano Nagle had great resonance. Nano’s vision of an educated citizenry despite the English Penal Laws, her courage and perseverance, were very attractive to a young woman who had been grounded in faith and loved learning.

Since the Presentation Congregation was founded as a teaching order, Sister Joan began her preparation for over fifty years as an educator in elementary, secondary and community college throughout California, formally “retiring” in 2000. After a Sabbatical in 2001 and supervising a Congregational biography project, she returned to teaching as an adjunct community college English instructor, then served in Congregational Leadership from 2010-2016. She presently serves on the Congregational Justice and Communications Guidance Committees, as a Congregational Coordinator, and as an English tutor at Presentation High School, San Jose.

Sister Joan Riordan teaching while known as Sister Mary Gerard.

“My first year teaching was at Cathedral Elementary School in a very transient San Francisco neighborhood. Many of my students were recent immigrants. One day, a newly arrived first grader from Managua, Nicaragua was reading for me from his Dick and Jane reader. The sentence was ‘This is Spot’, and the student was reading ‘es Spot.’ With my limited Spanish, I thought he was referring to the letter ‘S’ in the dog’s name, and tried several times to correct him. Only later, did I realize that he was correct all along!”

“One of my most memorable teaching experiences was at Presentation High School, Berkeley during the ‘60’s. Berkeley, California was a ‘happening place’ in the ‘60’s: the participants in Vatican Council II came through UC Berkeley’s Newman Center, so we had first hand information from Rome; the Beatles were in their prime, and I had the president of the Berkeley Beatles Club in my sophomore English class; the UC Free Speech Movement with Mario Savio, the Black Panthers, and the Patty Hearst kidnapping were daily news events. PHS and Berkeley High School were in competition for the annual Berkeley Gazette Honors Awards. Our high school body was well integrated with a significant percentage of students of color, including an African American student body president.”

The seed planted years ago in family and school has blossomed with time. Sister Joan has enjoyed teaching all grades from first through fourteenth in locations as varied as southern California in the 50’s, Berkeley in the 60’s, San Francisco and San Jose from the 70’s to the present.

“Teaching has provided me not only with a caring Community, the opportunity for on-going faith formation, education and travel, but more importantly with the opportunity to learn from many cultures and ethnicities, from those who are disadvantaged as well as those more fortunate. I treasure the richness and opportunity to serve the people of God and the blessings I have received as a member of the Sisters of the Presentation.”


1953 (Jan.-June) Teacher, Cathedral Presentation School, San Francisco
1953 – 1954 Teacher, Epiphany School, San Francisco
1954 – 1955 Teacher, St. Benedict School, Montebello
1955 – 1956 Teacher, St. Mary Magdalen School, Los Angeles
1956 – 1958 Teacher, Our Lady of Loretto School, Los Angeles
1958 – 1959 Teacher, St. Benedict School, Montebello
1959 – 1960 Teacher, St. Agnes School, San Francisco
1960 – 1962 Teacher, Holy Trinity School, San Pedro
1962 – 1964 Teacher, Presentation High School, San Francisco
1964 – 1967 Teacher, Presentation High School, Berkeley
1967 – 1970 Teacher, Presentation High School, San Francisco
1970 – 1976 Teacher, Presentation High School, San Jose
2000 – 2001 Sabbatical
2001 – 2002 Sabbatical student, Sophia Center/Holy Names College, Oakland and Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley
2002 – 2005 Volunteer services, Sisters of the Presentation, San Francisco
2005 – 2010 Adjunct Instructor, Evergreen Valley College, San Jose
2010 – 2016 Councillor, Sisters of the Presentation, San Francisco
2016 – 2019 Writing tutor and Study Center volunteer, Presentation High School, San Jose
2019 – Present Tutor, Presentation High School, San Jose