By Tia Lynn Ivey
Growing up, Maxine Jones always imagined herself in the courtroom as a practicing lawyer, but she ended up in the classroom as a teacher who touched the lives of hundreds of children throughout her educational career.
“You settle in life where you are supposed to be,” said Jones. “And I was supposed to be with those kids.”
Jones is being honored in the education category at this year’s Living Legacy Gala for her relentless dedication to educating the children of Morgan County. Jones, who still affectionately refers to her former students as “my kids,” accepted her first teaching job in January of 1961 right in Morgan County at Springfield Elementary School. She then taught in Monroe for five years before moving back to Madison to teach first-grade at the Pearl Street School. She moved over to Morgan County Primary School after integration in 1970. “I wanted my kids to learn and to remember what they learned,” said Jones, who incorporated visual activities, field trips, and projects into the curriculum of her classroom. “When 85 percent of people are visual learners, you need to do activities to show them, not just tell them,” explained Jones. “I wanted to give my kids life experiences, so they could see what is out in the world and learn that they could become whatever they wanted to become.” Jones regularly took her students to farms, grocery stores, banks, museums and tours of Downtown Madison. “My students still today remember what they did in my class.
“Most of all, I played with my children. I taught them games, problem-solving skills, and life skills and I think that made all the difference,” said Jones. After 20 years in the classroom, Jones became the first African-American to work at the Morgan County Board of Education office. She accepted the position of assistant superintendent of schools and a social worker for the school system. “A lot of my job became about keeping kids in school,” said Jones. Jones worked with families to ensure their students didn’t fall behind. “So many kids who leave school do so because they got so far behind and feel they could never catch up,” said Jones. “So, I worked really hard to see that they didn’t fall behind in the first place. “
Jones secured grant money under the Job Training Partnership Act to establish a summer program for Morgan County High School called the Hytec Aviation Training Program where students learned how to fly a plane and at the end of the course, they were able to co-pilot a real plane with an actual pilot in the air.
“I wanted to expose students to many different kinds of careers. To get them excited about their possibilities in life,” said Jones. Jones also pushed for a “Support Person of the Year” award to highlight the service of “behind-the-scenes” employees who serve the students of Morgan County, such as bus drivers, para-professionals, secretaries, janitors, and cafeteria workers. “All of these people work to serve the needs of our school children and I wanted them to be recognized for it,” said Jones. Jones herself earned Teacher of the Year, and became a finalist at the state level for Teacher of the Year.
Jones also worked on initiatives to reduce teen pregnancy, tackle drug abuse, child abuse, and child neglect, to improve school attendance, improve family support of students and procure grant monies for school programs. She also advocate to start the ROTC program in Morgan County. According to Jones bio for Living Legacy, she also served on the Georgia State Board of Education Committee to write and develop the evaluation instrument of School Social Workers. She became a trainer for the State of Georgia, traveling throughout the state to teach school administrators how to use this instrument…”
Jones retired in 1993 after 32 years of service. But she continued to provide educational instruction and support as a GED instructor, Job Developer for Action, Inc., Director of the Morgan County African-American Museum, and grant writer for Family Connection. Jones was married for nearly 45 years to the now late Albert T. Jones. She has one daughter, Toni Jones, who took up her mother’s first career choice and became a lawyer. Maxine Jones earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree from Spelman University in Atlanta. She then earned a Master’s Degree from the University of Georgia, along with two certifications in social work and instructional leadership. Jones began her teaching career during the days of segregation and marvels at how far Madison has come since those days.
“It’s changed a lot and the thing that is constant about Morgan County is how we care for each other here,” said Jones. I love this community. There is no other place I want to live because of the people who are so caring. This is a very special place with very special people who are close to my heart.”
Jones is honored to be recognized at the upcoming Living Legacy Gala, but noted her story would not be possible without the influence of many other people and their stories. It’s about all the people who helped you along the way. I am representing educators, but I want to extend that beyond teacher and include all the people who touch the lives of children, daycare workers, bus drivers, homeschooling folks, the grandparents raising a second-generation child. I want to represent all of these people because it’s about every life you touch, every kind word that you speak, every thoughtful thing a person does for a child. To all those people, I want to say thank you.”