For Madison County High School agriscience teacher and farmer Cindy Jones, teaching is all about connections.
“The challenge (in teaching) lies in motivating my students, which is often accomplished by showing them the real world application of the content they are learning,” she said. “I love that part of it – helping the students make connections out in the community and seeing them apply what they have learned…What a great way to start each day, with a room full of teenagers with all the energies, emotions and hopefulness they bring to each day.”
Jones has been teaching since 2005, and this year, her peers honored her by choosing her as Madison County School System’s Teacher of the Year.
“Being chosen as Teacher of the Year is a great honor,” Jones said. “Our school system is filled with exemplary teachers who are much more accomplished than I am so I am humbled to be chosen.”
Jones finds many parallels between farming and teaching, which make it easy for her to connect the two.
“In farming we don’t expect riches and fame,” she said. “Rather we farm because we love the land, the earthiness of growing, whether it be plants or animals, the cycles of the seasons, the way of life and the challenges of pitting ourselves against the numerous obstacles to farming in today’s regulated environment. (Likewise) in teaching, the challenges are many – mandates from distant state and federal officials, run away standardized testing, the practice of having a single assessment determine success or failure for students and teachers alike, and the disintegration of support from the family. As a teacher, I don’t teach for fame and fortune, but for the opportunity to connect with our youth, to engage in dialog and learning about a field I am passionate about, to promote positive change in young lives, and to help them grow and reach their full potential.”
Jones has “lived” her teaching profession by farming and by raising four children.
She earned a bachelor degree in agriculture animal science from the University of Georgia in 1979, and returned to school at Piedmont College for her master of arts in teaching degree, which she received in 2006.
It was while rearing her own children that she became interested in becoming a teacher. She served in many volunteer capacities at school and said she began to wonder, and to feel what she describes as an “undeniable call” to see if she had something to contribute in the classroom, asking herself if she could become the “rich and fertile soil” for the fragile young plants (students) seeking to root themselves in knowledge.
It has been her great pleasure to see that she did indeed have something to contribute, enjoying not only the classroom atmosphere, but taking the opportunity to integrate the curriculum with the needs of the Madison County community, helping to create a learning experience that extends well beyond the school campus.
“One of my most satisfying accomplishments has been the opportunity to intertwine relevant real world experiences into my classroom and provide learning experiences in our local agricultural community,” she said.
Jones feels this has not only helped the students and the community, but has strengthened the community’s support of the school system, making it more invested in the students’ success.
She is also excited about the upcoming College and Career Academy, which will involve the community even more in education.
Jones believes she teaches not only by what her students learn in the classroom, but by how she lives her life and models good citizenship values, such as community service.
“As teachers, we have a responsibility to lead both in the classroom and in our communities,” she said.
And she practices what she preaches – and teaches. She is a member of the Georgia Vocational Agricultural Teachers’ Association and the National Association of Agricultural Educators. She has also participated in math/science integration workshops, Engaging Students in Differentiated Learning, a Farm to School Pilot, extensive STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) training, and many others.
Being selected TOTY is not the first award or recognition she has received for her work as a teacher, farmer member of the community.
In 2012, she received the North Region Young Farmer Chapter of the Year award and this year, she received the Georgia Young Farmer Advisor of the Year award, the 2013 Distinguished Service Award from the county’s Cattlemen’s Association, the high school’s Teacher of the Year award and was named Rotarian of the Month by the county’s Rotary Club chapter.
Her students are also gaining recognition for themselves. In 2012, a student of hers won a National Gold Emblem in their proficiency award area and this year, two of her students won state competitions and advanced to national competition in agriscience.
Jones is also active in her church, leading the women’s organization called the Relief Society. Here she and other members seek to strengthen families and help those in need. “I have developed and led classes designed around these needs, with diverse topics such as gardening, parenting skills, and wellness behaviors,” she said. She also leads the church’s food ministry program.
“(In farming) the harvest is anticipated with hope, joy and relief,” Jones said. “We have planned and prepared, planted, irrigated and added nutrients and controlled weeds and pests. Have we done all we could to ensure a bountiful harvest? In my classroom, I have served as conveyor of factual information, a guide for understanding concepts and principles and a facilitator of reasoning skills, critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. I have modeled good citizenship …and promoted lifelong learning…what will my harvest be? My reward comes when, singularly or collectively, my students master the content, gain confidence from successes, learn the value of further education and walk out of my classroom door better prepared to succeed.”
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