Ebonie Jones ’19 MSE has wanted to be a teacher since she was a young girl. While most kids her age looked forward to the weekend, Jones looked forward to going to school each day.
To her, learning was exciting, and she credits her teachers for making school a great place to be.
“I want all young children to feel the same way I felt about school at their age – that school can be a place where you are loved and cared for, and that learning can be fun.”
It’s this drive and passion that led Jones, a fourth grade English language arts teacher at Oak Hill Elementary, to be honored as Guilford County Schools’ Teacher of the Year in September. Jones will go on to compete at the regional level in the Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year process.
“I’m relatively early in my career as an educator of 10 years, so this feels like a huge accomplishment. It’s nice for me to realize that I don’t have to wait to be a great teacher until year 20 – I’m great at what I do now, even during a pandemic. I hope that this inspires other young educators that just because you’re early in your career, doesn’t mean that you’re not valuable and making an incredible impact on your students and colleagues.”
Not only is Jones a champion for new teachers, she is also a champion for students with disabilities.
“I want to open the door for students with disabilities. I want people to see that including students with disabilities in the general education classroom can work, and hopefully prompt more schools to start doing the same.”
Jones chose to attend UNC Greensboro for the Master of Education in Special Education, concentration in Adapted Curriculum program, also known as Project TLC in the School of Education, to give her the opportunity to help students with severe disabilities be included in the general education classroom. Because she was teaching at Oak Hill Elementary while going through the program, she could take what she learned at UNCG and immediately apply it to her own classroom the next day. Since her time in the Project TLC program, Jones has successfully integrated five students into her classrooms.
“I have worked with Ms. Jones for three years, and each year she has worked hard to make sure her students learn and that they are good humans,” said Candice Bailey, principal of Oak Hill Elementary. “She treats all her students with dignity and grace. They know that she cares for them and wants them to be their absolute best. She goes the extra mile to engage the students in literacy and is an all-around excellent educator.”
Jones’ advice to educators as they navigate teaching during the pandemic?
“Things are hard right now. Technology is not always our friend. But the fact that you keep coming back and showing up every day to make an impact on your students means you’re already a great teacher.”
Story by Alexandra McQueen, University Communications