In Dion Jones’ classroom, students are “scholars,” a moniker they live up to every day. A third grade teacher at Fairland Elementary in Silver Spring, Maryland, Jones keeps students engaged by tailoring lessons, tasks and activities to their personal interests. Students work together to write a class newspaper featuring stories about each child. For a cross-content lesson on sound, Jones brings in a record player and some LPs. As they listen to the music, students discuss the records’ size and materials, chronicle changes in audio technology, and later interview family members and other teachers about their own experiences with record players. Jones’ students often assume the teaching role, developing both leadership skills and confidence. Each day starts with mindful minutes that allow students to breathe and share whatever is on their mind before they begin work. Together, the class recites an affirmation about being persistent learners who are willing to take risks. Thanks to Jones’ focus on both academics and social-emotional learning, his students’ performance shines. In 2021-22, they delivered 79.7% of the district’s projected growth in reading, 84.4% in math.
Jones is a leader at Fairland and sits on the instructional leadership and school improvement plan teams. He trains and supports student teachers and educators new to the school and district, and he welcomes peer observers into his classroom. Jones has presented to Fairland staff and helped lead the school’s efforts around equitable practices in teaching. When COVID-19 closed school buildings in 2020, Jones delivered materials to students and colleagues and taught fellow teachers how to use Canva, FlipGrid, Pear Deck, Clever and other technology for virtual instruction. Colleagues value Jones for his organization, tenacity, inclusiveness and generosity.
The relationships Jones builds with students and families are key to his success. Former students often stop to visit on their way to class, and Jones has shared his parent communication strategies with Fairland colleagues. He teaches summer school to get to know students before they arrive in his classroom and offers intense tutoring in math and literacy after school to help those whose learning has been interrupted by the pandemic. Jones’ students know they are loved, they have what they need to succeed at the highest levels, they are learning skills that will help them in the classroom and beyond, and their teacher will never give up on them.
Jones earned a bachelor’s in elementary education in 2016 from Coppin State University and a master’s in curriculum and instruction in 2020 from Grand Canyon University.
"I idolized all of my teachers. It always looked easy, the work that they did. They always had a positive attitude and created a warm..." (read more)
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