By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News
ShaRhonda Jones grew up in a blended family Saginaw, the oldest of her mother’s four children, and third oldest of her father’s five. “Even though I am not the oldest of my father’s children, I have always been viewed as the little-yet-big sister,” she says, noting that her mother says she exuded leadership qualities at a young age and always wanted to help others.
Her mother worked in the medical field, while her father was a factory worker. Jones graduated with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a Master of Arts in Education/Administration and Supervision from the University of Phoenix.
This is Jones’ 13th year in education and her fourth year teaching at Haisley Elementary, where she is the school’s lead teacher for the third year.
Principal Dante Watson says Jones has a perpetually positive attitude that is reflected in her classroom.
“She is always up, moving around, and interacting with her students to ensure all her students’ needs are met,” he says. “When you step into ShaRhonda’s room you will notice that her students take ownership of their learning. Her students are eager to engage in their learning, try new things, and support one another.”
Jones, an Ypsilanti resident, has three sons: Torion, a graduate of Pioneer High School, Roderick, a sophomore at Skyline, and MJ, a kindergartener at Haisley. She is engaged to be married next June.
In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and spending quality time with family and friends, as well as her mini Goldendoodle, Kobe. Jones is engaged to be married next June.
What was always written on your report card in grade school?
Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be an educator and make a difference in the lives of children. On my report card in grade school, two comments that were always written were that I was a hard worker and kind to others.
What were you like in third grade, and does the memory help you relate to your students?
In third grade, I was a curious child who loved to have fun while learning. Fun memories help me to relate to my students in regards to keeping them engaged. Children like to have fun and I bring smiles and a sense of humor to my classroom. Social-emotional learning and brain breaks are beneficial to learning especially in today’s world. Offering students choices in their learning, visuals, modeling, and time for them to process their thinking is extremely important and allows them to have a voice and grow in the classroom.
When you recall your first year of teaching, what memories stand out?
When I recall my first year of teaching, I remember being very nervous, feeling the need to get everything right, and making sure I was well prepared to receive my students right from the beginning. I was so focused on making sure everything was ready for my students and felt anxious all morning until the bell rang. When I saw my students’ smiling faces the anxiousness and anxiety melted away as I greeted them. From this moment, I learned how important it is to build relationships. Getting to know each student allows for an easier transition to learning. I learn about them, they learn about me, and together we grow throughout the year. Each year I grow and become a better teacher for them and they grow and develop to be a better student with a growth mindset.
What advice would you give to a first-year teacher?
Take one day at a time and focus on building relationships with your students first. This is extremely important as it sets the foundation for the remainder of the school year. Every child is different and has their own unique learning styles and interests. Once relationships are built along with expectations and routines in place, learning will happen.
What do you think of AAPS’ emphasis this year on dignity and belonging?
I believe AAPS’s emphasis this year on dignity and belonging is a great start to the year. I love the diversity that AAPS has and the focus on dignity and belonging. We all are different, we learn differently, have different backgrounds, religions, etc. Our differences are what make us the people we are. If we embrace each others’ differences with dignity, honor, and respect, we can grow abundantly as a unit.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
I was inspired in 6th grade by one of my teachers, Mrs. Parris. She modeled what I feel a teacher is. She cared for her students, made learning engaging and fun for us, and made us all feel as if we belonged and were important when we were in her classroom. The way she made me feel and how she believed in us as 6th graders, made me want to do the same for others. As an eighth grader, I became a part of my middle school’s Young Educators Society (Y.E.S. Club). This group consisted of students who had an interest in education. The Y.E.S. Club gave us information about what teachers do, allowed us to learn some basics of teaching, and we had an opportunity to write a plan for a day in which we could “teach” a class alongside a teacher. I absolutely loved it and I knew from that moment I wanted to become an educator.
In your seven years in AAPS, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching?
In my seven years in AAPS, the most important thing I’ve learned about teaching is to build relationships first, and growth will follow. The most important thing I’ve learned about learning is that it never ends. Teachers never stop learning because there is always new technology that enhances learning, new strategies, and resources to help students learn at their best.
Describe an average workday.
An average day begins with me putting up my morning message and updating our schedule to prepare for the day. When the bell rings I am greeting students by name and with a smile in the hallway and outside my door as they enter. Once in the classroom, the smiles continue, and learning begins. We start the day by learning from one another during our daily morning meeting. This is essential and beneficial to start the day. We learn so much just by conversing with one another and doing an engaging activity. Next, we get ready for math and word study, snack/brain break, followed by specials—art, PE, music, or library. Then we come back to the classroom for more learning through writing followed by lunch. After lunch, we have quiet time with a calm activity. Then we begin diving into reading followed by a recess break. Next, depending on the day, we have either science, social studies, or health followed by our final class meeting to close out the day by discussing the positives of the day, a read-aloud, or other engaging activities.
What’s the happiest part of your day?
The happiest part of the day for me is in the morning when I greet students as they arrive at school. I am able to do check-ins with students to get a sense of how their day is starting. This helps me understand their mood in the morning then I can get a sense of how I can make their day become more positive and better to have a positive rest of the day.
Apps you can’t live without:
Netflix, to watch movies when I can; Facebook, to keep in touch with family and friends; and a new favorite is Tiktok to learn new recipes since I have been learning to make new dishes for my family.
What makes teaching at Haisley unique?
What makes Haisley unique is the diversity of families and the sense of a family within our school community. At events where families, students, and staff come together, it feels like a big family. Everyone is willing to help others, do their part, and very open-minded to others’ feelings, being respectful of differences, and caring toward one another.
How do you keep students engaged?
I keep students engaged by bringing up things that interest them and things from their background and culture into our class discussions and learning. I want them to be comfortable and feel that I care about things they care about. I add things to my daily lessons that interest them in number stories in math, writing, etc. This gets their attention and they are usually eager to learn because they can relate to what I am teaching. I also have a great sense of humor and want my students to enjoy learning so I try my best to make learning fun for all my students.
How do you show school spirit?
I show school spirit by wearing my Haisley gear each week, participating in our school events, and spirit weeks, and promoting our school whenever and wherever I can. I participate in a number of committees to help our school become more equitable, and inclusive, and to show that we at Haisley care about our students and families. I am proud to be a Haisley Husky!
What is the most rewarding part of teaching?
The most rewarding part of teaching is the look on a student’s face when they begin to understand something that they thought was difficult, felt defeated, or when they could not complete a learning task. That look is priceless! I feel all teachers love that moment when a child notices their learning and becomes more confident in their learning. It is a joy that I love to see because that is actually seeing growth in real-time and it brings such joy to my heart.
What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher?
I wish everyone realized that the work of a teacher doesn’t stop when we leave the classroom. We bring so much home. I feel our families are superheroes for us. Many times the attention to our families is paused due to grading assignments and assessments for our students, setting up or planning for the next week at home. There are times when one of my students may have had a tough day at school and I am home strategizing ways to help that student have a better day tomorrow. There is so much that others don’t see and some make the assumption that when the bell rings at the end of the day, teachers stop working. This is not true for us but we are so passionate about student learning and growth and love what we do, we decide to make sacrifices.
How do you recharge?
I recharge by taking 30 minutes per day to myself when I am home. I may read a book, watch a TV show, exercise, or take a quick visit to get ice cream or another treat that I enjoy. Self-care is so important and I feel everyone no matter their profession should take some time out of their day to unwind and recharge to ensure you are well rested and can take on whatever comes the next day.
How do you spend your summers?
I spend my summers spending quality time with my family. This past summer I had some time to begin planning my wedding. I will get married next year in June. My fiance and I usually take a trip together and a separate trip with our children. We also like to have movie nights, bowling nights, games nights, and other activities we all enjoy. Family is important to me. Due to how busy I am during the school year, I like to take time to give my family the attention they may not have had during the school year.
What’s most exciting about your professional life right now? Your personal life?
The most exciting thing about my professional life right now is the growth that I see within myself at this time in my career. I like to stay busy and love to collaborate with my fellow colleagues to grow as educators. I am currently the lead teacher of Haisley, a mentor, and a part of several committees and leadership positions. I aim to help, not just my students, but other teachers that are new to our school and district. Teaching can be a tough job at times and I want new teachers who are beginning this journey to have the resources and tools they need to be successful and to know that “I got them!”
In my personal life, the most exciting thing has been becoming recently engaged. I am excited to plan my wedding and I will be married shortly after the school year ends in June.