HOPE – At the close of the school day on Jan. 6, Hope High School math teacher Charles Jones could rightfully say he has taught school in Southwest Arkansas within eight decades.
“It will make the eighth decade that I have taught in,” Jones said. “I got the last four months of the Fifties, then, the Sixties, Seventies, Eighties, Nineties, the Aughts, the Teens; and, now the 2020’s.”
Jones began teaching in the Guernsey Public Schools in 1959 prior to consolidation with the Hope Public Schools.
He began where he left off, having graduated from Guernsey High School.
“I could say I was the only one who went 15 years at Guernsey,” Jones quipped. “I went to college and then came back to the same school.”
He took his bachelor’s degree from then-Arkansas College, now Lyon College, in Batesville, and Jones completed his master’s degree at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia.
“When I graduated from college, I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Jones admits. “I came back home and somebody said, ‘What are you going to do?’ and, I said, ‘I don’t know.’”
It turned out the Guernsey schools needed a coach.
“I coached basketball; off and on, probably 15 or 20 years,” Jones said.
He brought two state championships to Saratoga during that time.
“I coached at Saratoga in the 1990s and we won back-to-back state championships,” Jones said. “We had a good bunch of kids; and, we were invited to the National Invitational Tournament in Florida in 1996.”
Jones teaches math at HHS, but he has not always been a math teacher.
“My major was in history,” he said. “I got certified in math after I started teaching.”
Jones believes it is fitting for him to have stayed in Hope since his family settled in Hempstead County in 1850.
“I am the fifth generation,” he notes.
Changes in public education have been constant during Jones’ teaching tenure. A shift from corporal punishment to behavioral intervention; and the reality of school consolidation as rural populations became smaller, were significant he said.
And, while math may not seem to be a subject which has changed significantly over time, its importance has changed in public education, Jones said.
“Math has changed tremendously since I first started teaching school,” he said. “When I first started teaching, we taught Algebra I and Algebra II; now, we teach trigonometry and geometry. There are different courses that have been added.”
But, the biggest change for math teachers, Jones said, has been… personal calculators.
“Until about three years ago, I would not let a student use a calculator,” Jones said. “But, then, they started letting them use it on the ACT; so, I was afraid of penalizing the student if I didn’t let them use it. But, that hurts students’ understanding the basics of mathematics.”
But, the satisfaction of seeing students succeed in taking their education into the greater community of Hope and beyond has always been the same.
“My first year at Guernsey I taught James Griffin,” Jones said. “And, he just retired from teaching math at the college here. That is the thing that is more satisfying; you run into kids who thank you for what they learned.”