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Her mother inspired career in education that spanned 34 years

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GIFT FROM COLLEAGUES. Retiring Nashville High School teacher Judy Jones displays a gift from the NHS faculty and staff. The framed present has brief descriptions and highlights of her 34 years in education, including 18 at Nashville.

By Terrica Hendrix

News-Leader staff

Judy Jones carefully watched and listened to her mother teach every day. Her mother was a lifelong teacher who started a private kindergarten in her Ben Lomond home.  Jones was inspired by her mother to seek a career in teaching and began her career in August 1979. She retired from Nashville High School this year.

“My foremost inspiration for going into education was my mother. She was a lifelong teacher of one kind or another,” Jones began. “She had started teaching in Lockesburg in 1947, and she taught public school music. She had about two years of college, but at that time, that was enough for a teaching certificate. Her career there was cut short by thyroid surgery, which she said ruined her singing voice. Later she taught in Ogden for a time. When I was in the third grade, we moved back to Ben Lomond, my mom and dad’s hometown. She hadn’t taught in a while, and she missed it. She started a private kindergarten on our screened-in back porch.”

Jones said that the next year, her mother  started a kindergarten in Ashdown and “had a private kindergarten there until kindergarten became a part of the public schools.

Later, she taught Headstart and

was an aide in the Ashdown school system. I helped her prepare lessons and make copies. On days school wasn’t in session, I helped out with the children. I thought that I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher, but student teaching in kindergarten and first grade made me doubt that decision.”

Jones’ bachelor’s degree was in elementary education, and she was certified in grades K-6. Her first job was in Lockesburg teaching fifth and sixth grade language arts and reading. The classes were “departmentalized, and there were three of us who divided the subjects among us. The other two teachers taught math, science, and social studies,” she remembered.

Once she completed a year of teaching at Lockesburg, she took five years off to raise her children.

She resumed her career at Lockesburg in 1985 when her oldest child started kindergarten. “I was back in the same grade level but this time teaching math, science, and social studies. We were to move to a new building the next year, but after I had moved all of my things, the superintendent asked me if I would be willing to teach Chapter I reading in seventh grade.” She then taught English and reading that next year. The superintendent then requested that Jones teach seventh and eighth grade the next year. “Again, I said I would and moved up a grade. One of my students whom I’d had in sixth, seventh and eighth grade asked if I thought I would graduate with them,” she laughed. 

“The superintendent asked me at the end of that year if I would be willing to take on a

journalism class the next year as the course would become a requirement.” Jones said she was so excited about the opportunity and had some experience in the journalism field prior to teaching. She was an assistant editor for her school newspaper and yearbook “and because of that, I’d accepted an opportunity during my senior year to work at the Little River News in Ashdown.”

She walked to work every day after school and collected her check for $15 (less taxes and Social Security) each Friday. “The after-school job turned into a summer job and after three years became a full-time job until I returned to finish my bachelor’s degree and apply for my teaching certificate. I told the superintendent I would and headed back to college to take the required courses and get my secondary English certification because that was a requirement for the journalism endorsement.”

The first yearbook Jones advised was the 1989 Darter. The school also published a newspaper called Blue’s News. “I continued teaching at Lockesburg until 2000 at some point adding a Gifted and Talented endorsement and those classes to my schedule,” she said.

In the spring of her last year at Lockesburg, Terri McJunkins (who had taught business classes at Lockesburg for nine years) called Jones about a career opportunity. “She said that John Robert Schirmer was going to be working at the newspaper full time the next year and that English and journalism position would be open. She encouraged me to apply. I did, and the rest is history. I started with 10th grade advanced English classes and journalism and have taught 11th grade pre-AP classes and regular 10th grade English classes as well as speech and drama,” she remembered.

Throughout her long, successful career, Jones still remembered seeing her students’ faces when they would see their first published work. She said that seeing their story on the computer is one thing, but being able to hold a book or a newspaper in their hands makes it real. “The pride I see in their eyes is priceless.”

Since she became a journalism teacher and yearbook adviser, she has noticed some changes in the layout and design for publications.

She said that her first yearbook was drawn on “triplicate sheets accompanied by coded copy sheets. We sent in a large envelope for each spread with those sheets and photographs that were tagged, coded, and cropped by hand. For the newspaper, we printed the stories in columns, trimmed them and waxed them and pasted them on layout sheets that we took to the printer. Corrections were difficult at best.

“Now, we work with desktop publishing software that gives a ‘what you see is what you get’ image. Corrections are easy, and with yearbook or newspaper, sending the files to the printer is as simple as creating a PDF and either uploading or emailing them. Some people might wish for the good old days, but there is nothing I miss about the way that we had to put our publications together then.”

After 18 years at Nashville High School, Jones has made numerous memories with her colleagues. “Many of them, I think of them more like family than as co-workers. This year has been difficult for my family medically. My husband Paul had open-heart surgery in November, and I had a hip replacement in March. My colleagues stepped up both times, sending food on a daily basis once we came home from the hospital. The teachers at Nashville High School are a caring group of Christian people who go above and beyond in caring for their co-workers, their students and their community.

“Of course, I’ll miss the students. Whether in English or journalism, I loved to watch

students grow in their abilities. I loved having students who insisted they weren’t readers in August come to me in October and ask if I would order them particular books. I know I’ll miss working on the books once this one is done. I can’t imagine not getting up, getting ready and heading out to school will be like, but I know that I will figure it out. I’ve been doing this for 34 years, and during that time, I’ve probably spent as much time if not more time in a school building than I have at home.

“It will definitely be different,” she said.