PCHS teacher forges connections with students
After 28 years of teaching, Janice Jones still enjoys the simple pleasures of her profession.
She loves standing in front of a classroom and facing the challenge of connecting with 20 different students who learn in different ways. She loves the moment it becomes clear she is making an impact. To put it succinctly, she loves coming to work.
"It’s never something that you say, ‘Oh, I just can’t do it today,’" Jones said. "Even when you come off a weeklong break, you look forward to coming back, seeing the kids and doing what you need to do."
Jones has been a science teacher at Park City High School for 16 years. She has taught countless students of varying abilities, but one thing has been constant throughout her career: Students will learn if you know how to teach them. To her, that is exhilarating.
"There’s a bit of showmanship involved," she said. "You’re both an educator and an entertainer. You come into class and you can be anybody you want to be. That’s what draws the kids to you. I get to come in here and tell them real-life stories that happened in science and they eat it up. I’m really fortunate."
In addition to teaching her classes, Jones heads up before- and after-school science tutoring. In her time at the helm, the tutoring system has flourished. Some days, more than 30 students attend, she said. It’s all about ensuring every student has a chance to succeed.
"We know what it’s going to take to get them through college," Jones said. "We keep their feet to the fire, but we give them everything they need to be successful."
The most rewarding part of her job is developing relationships with students. Since she teaches science classes at all levels, she often has students for two or three years and is able to discover how best to reach them. But even though she gets more time with students than many teachers, she’s aware her time to make a lasting impact on them is limited. So she tries to make the most of it.
"You know the kids, you know how to reach out to them," she said. "I get to spend 90 minutes with a group of kids every other day. If I cannot sit down and talk to them one-on-one for two or three minutes during that time, I’m wasting it."
The relationships Jones develops with students are so strong, she typically is asked to write about 30 letters of recommendations for outgoing seniors. It’s a task that can at times be tedious, but it allows her to reflect on each student and where he or she will go from there.
"They take what they learn here, and they go out in the real world and do it," she said. "To say that I’ve had a part of it is really great."
As much as she enjoys teaching, Jones also loves the subject matter. It was during an internship many years ago in which she performed scientific research that she discovered that teaching science rather than practicing it was the perfect intersection of her passions.
"You sit around and wait for something to happen," Jones said of doing research. "That’s never the case in education. You’re on top of it, you’re in front of it, you’re always moving."
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The Park City Board of Education is on track to place a bond on the ballot this fall to improve district facilities. The top priorities would be to put ninth grade in the high school, eighth grade in the middle school and to augment preschool offerings by expanding elementary schools.