Terria Jones, Carpenter Elementary third grade teacher

Carpenter third grade teacher Terria Lynell Jones grew up in Belleville attended Lincoln Consolidated Schools in Ypsilanti Township and graduated from high school with honors. She was the oldest of her three siblings, and her mother, Orpah Paylor, was her biggest supporter and always emphasized the importance of education.

Jones received her Bachelor of Science Degree from Eastern Michigan University in Elementary Education. In this position, she went on to pursue her childhood dream of being a teacher, mentor, guide, motivator, and a source of inspiration to her students of diverse backgrounds. She later decided she would continue her educational endeavors at Eastern Michigan University once again by receiving a Master of Arts Degree in K-12 Educational Leadership. 

Over the years, Jones has been involved in many leadership roles within the AAPS district as well as other local districts. She has used her passion for leading to support up-and-coming educators and has served as a mentor teacher for student teachers, she mentors new teachers hired into the district, also serves as a grade-level lead teacher, and is a member of the school improvement team.

Carpenter Assistant Principal Terra Webster said that Jones’ classroom feels and looks more like a family room, and that her students agree.

“Mrs. Jones encourages her students to shine in their strength,” says Webster. “The students who excel with IT, they are the Chromebook experts, and everyone in the family knows who to go to for Chromebook support. The same applies to the content areas, math, and ELA. All students know who in class to ask if they have questions. There are also classroom experts regarding conflict resolution and class experts who others can talk to if they’re feeling sad.” 

“With deliberate modeling from the teacher on how everyone is an expert at something, students have typically emerged as a classroom/family expert by the Thanksgiving break. It’s truly fascinating to observe their metamorphosis as a self-sufficient community. And yes, there’s even been an expert on opening milk cartons. Everyone’s an expert at something!”

Why did you pursue a career in teaching?
I pursued a career in teaching because of my passion and love of learning. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children from diverse backgrounds.

Describe an average workday.  
I typically arrive at school by 7 a.m. I like to use this time to make sure instructional materials are ready for teaching and learning. I review lesson plans and respond to emails. I greet my students at the door each morning and welcome them to another great day of learning. We begin our day with a morning meeting, where students have opportunities to share their thoughts and experiences. Our morning routine also includes social-emotional learning and mindfulness activities that reinforce positive community building and it prepares our bodies and minds for a rigorous, exciting, and fun day of learning.

What are your best tips for classroom management?
My best tips for classroom management include making connections, being consistent, and being compassionate. These can be achieved by greeting each student at the door each morning, creating clear expectations and routines, practicing mindfulness, teaching goal setting and self-management, and lastly, remaining positive. 

Why did you want to work for Ann Arbor Public Schools?
I wanted to work for the Ann Arbor Public Schools district because I am committed and dedicated to educating and molding the young minds of the future. I want to have a positive impact on the lives of young people in the community. I enjoy working on collegial teams with other educational professionals.

What do you like about working at Carpenter specifically?
By far, one of the most rewarding aspects of working at Carpenter is seeing the progress in my students as I watch them grow and develop. The students come from diverse backgrounds and work very hard to be their best. Every day is an adventure. 

What do you want most for your students?
I want my students to come to school motivated, focused, and ready to learn. I want them to be able to think critically and problem-solve. Lastly, I want my students to gain independence and confidence to overcome obstacles.

Favorite websites and apps:

If you could keep only five possessions, what would they be?

  1. My Bible
  2. My wedding ring
  3. A family photo
  4. A quilt made by my grandmother
  5. My memory box

Was there a teacher who had a powerful influence on your career? If so, what did you learn?
A high school teacher and coach, Mr. Dave Andon comes to mind as one of the strong influences in my life. He helped to cultivate a strong will to succeed, perseverance, and a never give up mindset. As a teacher, I’ve used these valuable character-building traits to inspire my students through their journey in life.

Your thoughts on the district’s focus this year on dignity, belonging, and well-being?
I like that the district is placing a big emphasis on focusing on intentional acts that celebrate our diverse cultures and well-being. This is a great way to transform our school culture and bring more emphasis to making sure everyone feels valued.

How is teaching different from the way you imagined it would be?
I thought long and hard about this question, and I’ve concluded that nothing is different from the way I imagined teaching would be. Before becoming a teacher, I thought it would require me to be a leader, a problem solver, have a strong work ethic, and be adaptable. On that note, the only thing I can say that is a bit disappointing in a funny way is that I was looking forward to writing on a chalkboard as my elementary teachers did, but those have long since gone away.

How do you make your students feel like family?
I try to make my students feel like family by creating an inviting and safe space, building a strong community atmosphere, treating each student as a unique individual, and finally showing interest in their stories, experiences, and motivations.

What advice would you give to a first-year teacher?
The advice I would give a first-year teacher includes: 

  • Establish a balance between work and home life.
  • Build relationships with students, families, and staff.
  • Be reflective, forget your failures, learn from them, and forgive yourself. 
  • Make time for your family, friends, and self-care.
  • Establish effective classroom routines and a management system.
  • Establish and maintain high expectations for all students.
  • Seek a positive mentor and ask for help.

What’s the best compliment anyone could give you?
The best compliment anyone could give me is that I am dedicated and fully invested in being the best teacher to every student in my class.

What’s something funny a student did or said recently? 
The funniest thing a student did recently actually involved more than half my class. One of my students entered the classroom one morning and gave me an apple. A few minutes later, I was given another apple. By the time the morning meeting began, there were 12 apples on my desk. I couldn’t help but laugh as I said, “What is this? Give a teacher an apple day?” 

What is the most rewarding part of teaching?
The most rewarding part of teaching is seeing my students succeed. I love passing on knowledge to the next generation so they can achieve their goals. I am dedicated to coaching and mentoring them to do so. Being a teacher is truly fulfilling.

What about someone in history?
If I could meet someone in history it would be amazing to meet Marva Collins. She was an African-American educator who created a preparatory school in a very impoverished neighborhood in Chicago. She was a true pioneer in the field of education. She believed with the right teaching methods, any child could learn. 

What do you know now that you wish you had known then?
The thing I know now that I wish I had known my first year of teaching is maintaining self-care. Being a teacher is a very demanding career. Over the years I’ve learned to prioritize getting a good night’s sleep, setting and maintaining boundaries to preserve work-life balance, and strengthening my mindfulness.

What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher?
I wish others knew how deeply invested teachers are in the well-being and success of their students. Teachers make many sacrifices but the results are rewarding. Teachers wish you knew how much more they do than just teach.

How do you spend your summers?
I like to spend my summers reading, traveling with my husband, spending time with my family, and spoiling Zara, my precious granddaughter.

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