Behind the Apple — Hope Jones, Newington Elementary School
Although Hope Jones, 47, of Ravenel followed a circuitous career route to the classroom, she is ever so glad she did.
Growing up in Sanford, N.C., Jones graduated from Campbell University with a degree in Psychology. Armed with her degree, she went to work in N.C., working with kids with disabilities.
Then, in 1991, she married and moved to Summerville. Her husband, a nuclear engineer, worked at the Naval Shipyard. Jones went to work for Dorchester County Disabilities and Special Needs as a case manager.
When the shipyard closed in 1996, they moved to Beaufort where she went to work for Beaufort County Special Needs and Disabilities and her husband worked on Parris Island in IT.
They moved to Ravenel in 2002 when her husband took a position with a Charleston law firm and she commuted more than an hour each way to her job in Beaufort. She did that for two years when she decided she wanted to try teaching. She applied to the PACE program – Program of Alternative Certification for Educators. However, she only wanted to work in the Dorchester District Two district so she “had to wait a while.”
She became eligible to teach special education through the critical needs program and waited until a position opened. In 2004 the numbers were high at Newington and, although she had never student taught and earned her credentials in a non-standard way, “Mrs. Groome took a chance with me,” she smiles.
She has taught for seven years at Newington Elementary, with two years in the middle next door at Flowertown Elementary.
“It’s the hardest job I have ever done,” she says.
But her commute is only 25 minutes now and she is the happiest she has ever been in a job.
“I had no idea how challenging it would be,” she says. (And that was before she added the mountain of federal paperwork the job requires.)
“Seeing children get stressed and feeling they are failures…not having confidence in themselves…that’s the worst experience.”
But when middle school-aged children actually take the time and come back to find her to tell her what they are doing now, or send her texts or call her, that, she says, is the best of what she does.
Newington Elementary practices inclusion so Jones is often teaching an entire class of fourth or fifth graders math, reading and writing.
A large part of teaching her students self-confidence comes from the school incorporating the “Leader In Me” program.
“We teach our students the 7 Habits to help them become leaders of themselves, which includes making good choices and putting first things first.
“The 7 Habits for my students is like a road map. They learn how to prioritize what they need to do and learn that all behaviors and choices (both good and bad) have consequences.
“The skills they learn not only help them academically, but it transfers to home and their personal lives as well. It’s a wonderful program and we will celebrate with Leadership Day in February.”
She also serves on the PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) committee, was Teacher of the Year for Newington in 2011 and runs the Dogs 101 club.
And that’s a story in itself.
“It helps the kids have compassion for animals, learn how to train them and do sports with them.”
Her dog is a therapy dog and the club’s mascot. The club often has guest dogs such as other therapy dogs, a K-9 officer, hunting dogs, agility dogs and dogs from the SPCA.
Additionally, she participates in Boot Camp (exercise class) for teachers as a way to incorporate Habit 7 – Sharpen the Saw. “This habit deals with balance and taking care of ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually,” she explains. “About 20 teachers participate. We have a trainer from Any Time Fitness come to Newington twice a week to coach us through an hour of exercise.”
She is also a mentor for a first-year teacher.
She has no lofty professional goals. “I want to stay in the classroom because I am most effective here and I can make the biggest difference. I like being hands-on with kids and their parents are very supportive.”
Her goal with her students is to teach to their different learning styles and help them stay on-track with their peers.
When she is not at school she and her husband, West, lived with BobbiJo Cooley…their Bassett Hound.
“I spend a lot of time with BobbiJo doing agility training,” she says.
During the summer, she and BobbiJo do dog therapy through the K-9 Care Unit out of Charleston which takes them to summer camps, nursing homes and schools.
“I like to go to the beach, camp, sit outside under the stars…anything outdoors,” she says, “and watch college football.”
She and West also enjoy kayaking especially down the Edisto River.
“He is a supportive bystander in the dog-training ring,” she laughs.
“I absolutely do not like to cook!”
Fortunately, West does and is exceptionally good at it she says.
Her husband recently started his own business – Lowcountry Technical – computer repair services out of their home.
Jones’ goals are simple. “Just to be happy, enjoy every day and find something good in each day…the job can be stressful and sometimes it is hard to see the day-to-day progress.”