FAIRHOPE, Alabama — Just a few months ago, Pam Jones began her tenure as director of the Marietta Johnson School of Organic Education in Fairhope – a new post, but a familiar environment to this veteran in the field of education.
Jones, who recently retired from Baldwin County Public Schools, where she served most recently as assistant principal of Foley Elementary, grew up in Daphne and attended the Organic School herself for seventh through 12th grades. It is also where she met her husband and local potter, Tom Jones.
“Tom graduated in 1970 and returned in 1972 to teach pottery and folk dancing,” said Jones, who was still a student at the time. “I graduated in 1975, attended Hinds Community College in Raymond, Miss., and then married Tom in 1976.”
Jones settled into married life and soon started a family, but after her children started school she began volunteering at the local nursing home where she worked with three special needs students who attended the Point Clear School.
“Volunteering with these children, I found out about an opportunity to work as a special education aide and I also became a bus driver,” Jones said, adding that she was ultimately inspired to return to school at Faulkner State Community College. “I then went to the University of South Alabama and earned my teaching degree in special education.”
In 1994, Jones got a job as a special education teacher at Daphne Elementary School, working with students with physical and mental learning disabilities.
“I eventually received my master’s degree and then went back to South Alabama and got my administration certification. There was an opening available for an assistant principal at Daphne Elementary and I was asked to fill that position.” When her position in Daphne was eliminated in 2009 because of student numbers, Jones transferred to Foley Elementary until she retired.
Now at the Organic School, which currently has approximately 30 enrolled students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grades, Jones said the biggest difference she’s noticed is the lack of of testing in the classroom.
“Public schools are constantly testing. We assess children, but we do not test them,” she said, adding that the school’s philosophy is that some of the fear and trepidation of learning is removed from students in the absence of testing. “At the Organic School, we’re always learning, whether it be book learning in the classroom or going outside to learn about the environment.”
Jones said she loves her new position and what she does on a daily basis.
“I have always loved working with children and watching them learn new things and experience life. The Eastern Shore offers so many different things to teach our students at Organic. We can walk to the beach and learn about sea life and water activities, or we can go to the gulley and into the woods and learn about the plants and animals that are indigenous to our area. The school is an integral part of Fairhope, it’s what the people of Fairhope are all about.”