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Mr. Billy Jones taught students by example

This week’s new apple for the teacher tree at Kump Education Center honors Mr. Billy Jones, who taught science and led the gifted program at Duluth High School in Duluth, Georgia. He was a teacher who helped his students understand how they could use their talents to help others. He was also one of the teachers who made me realize what a difference one great teacher can make.

My own children had the good fortune to be among the many students who took classes and went to academic competitions with Mr. Jones between 1987 and 1991. He taught Independent Study, allowing students to take Latin I, II, III or German, or A.P. Physics, and other special classes he was able to teach.

My daughter, Holly wrote, “Mr. Jones led by example. He was always kind, patient, and he gave everyone the benefit of the doubt. He also made us feel like we could learn anything…. Mr. Jones’s optimism, energy, and warmth are still an inspiration to me, 30 years after high school graduation. … Not to mention that he still keeps up with a lot of us to this day.”

When Holly was his student, Mr. Jones kept in touch with families by sending out postcards thanking students and parents for their participation in all of the activities that he made possible at the high school. Duluth was still a small town on the outskirts of Atlanta where shopping centers and the suburban lifestyle were swallowing up rural Georgia. Mr. Jones had been trained as a Baptist minister, and although he never tried to proselytize for the church, he maintained a true concept of community within the school.

When other teachers went home for the weekend, Mr. Jones took students to academic competitions. He advised students in Scholars’ Bowl, Chess Club, Ma Jong, and Science Olympiad. Parents really appreciated the fact that Mr. Jones maintained the link between school and home because drug trafficking and other social habits were changing rapidly in Georgia during the period when my children were growing up there.

The afterschool activities that Mr. Jones sponsored gave students a social context. They were on the cross-county team and had scouting opportunities, but there were many days when they could be home long before I was there. With all the things they had to do for Mr. Jones’ program, I did not need to worry — they had plenty of worthwhile activities to keep them busy.

The contests and other school-related activities that Mr. Jones made available gave good students opportunities to earn scholarships. Such activities helped high school students discover what they did well, then begin to make college plans, and finally set meaningful career goals.

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