Goes on to national competition
When Mindy Jones received the email that announced she was the local VFW Teacher of the Year, she deleted it thinking it was bogus.
It wasn’t until the congratulatory emails came from school system Executive Director Ken Oertling and J.B. Martin Middle Principal Steven Guitterrez that she realized, “Oh, God, this is real.”
In January, Jones, a pre-algebra teacher at J.B. Martin Middle School in Paradis, was shocked when still more news came.
Jones was named among the VFW’s teachers of the year for Louisiana, which includes elementary, junior high and high school teachers who teach education topics regularly and promote America’s history and traditions effectively.
“It was truly an honor for me to sit in a room full of heroes who were thanking me for my service to the children of Louisiana,” Jones said. “I don’t consider what I do for my students anything special or out of the ordinary … it’s just who I am. Once my students walk into my classroom, they have walked into my life forever. I learn just as much from them as they do from me.”
Jones, who’s been a teacher for 17 years, really does appreciate what she does for a living, but it got off to a rocky start.
“I cried everyday for the first two weeks,” she said. “It was intimidating to work with children who thought they were adults.”
Jones, 21 at the time, got a class that set out to get rid of her. One day, she returned home with all her things packed, but her father turned her around when he told her she’d made a commitment. He explained many of them didn’t have the kind of family she’d had growing up and needed her so she returned, which surprised her class because she’d told them she wasn’t coming back.
But, by the end of the school year, both teacher and students had come to a realization that changed them both.
“They made me who I am today,” Jones said.
Described as an educator who “exemplifies all the ideal characteristics of a great teacher” in the award, Jones simply replied she was doing her job.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) obviously felt it was much more than this when it bestowed its Teacher of the Year award to Jones. She received the state award in January at the VFW Department of Louisiana Mid Winter Conference in Alexandria. She advances to the VFW National Headquarters for consideration in the national contest.
Based on the nominees submitted, the local VFW chapters or posts, recognize one outstanding educator in grade K-5, 6-8, and 9-12. Each post submits local winners and documents for district and then state levels.
Guitterrez, who nominated Jones for the honor, called her a great teacher.
“She goes beyond the academics side of teaching,” he said. “While teaching at a high level, she also shows compassion and consideration for her students. She teaches her students through patience, motivation, engagement, and being their cheerleader.
“She is always there to pick them up when they make mistakes. Mrs. Jones knows how to get the best out of her students, and the students want to work hard for her because they know how hard she works for them.”
Guitterrez submitted the nomination to West St. Charles VFW Post 3750.
For Jones, the honor is about helping her students.
She recalled a former student emailing her about needing help to pay for college textbooks, which Jones understood because she knew the need was legitimate. She paid for them.
“I’ve always had a servant’s heart,” Jones said. “You always give more to others than yourself. That’s how my parents raised me and that’s how I hope to raise my own kids.”