GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — In just the second grade, Mrs. Valerie Jones had already figured out her calling.
"I just knew. When that lady pushing that cart came into my classroom and I just found that niche," shares Valerie Jones, the Valley's Top Teacher. "I went home and told my mom 'I am going to be an art teacher. That lady pushes a cart and she's got cool things on there, and that's what I am going to do.'"
Now she has been teaching visual arts at Guntersville Middle and High Schools for 23 years, in addition to teaching in Germany for Department of Defense Dependent Schools. Students feel comfortable with Mrs. Jones because she allows them to be their authentic selves.
"You know, if a child wants to put blue leaves on their tree, that's fine. It's their work, it's not mine," explains Mrs. Jones.
She pushes students to try new things in order to find what they truly love.
"You've got to be able to grab a hold of that from the student and allow them to explore those areas and to also be able to express themselves," she says.
Mrs. Jones gets her kids signed up for different competitions and finds ways to get their artwork displayed in the community. And although trophies are a great, art is bigger than that.
"You know, humans are designed to create," says Mrs. Jones. "It is just an expression of yourself."
She hopes these teachings will impact her students for years to come.
"It's to enrich their lives. It is something they can do when they are 40, 50, 60, 70 years old," she explains.
Mrs. Jones also makes sure her kids are enriching the lives of others. She says they get great community support, so before the pandemic her class would find ways to use their talents to give back. They would volunteer and teach art at the local cancer center and at nursing homes. Mrs. Jones has a love for art, her community, and her school.
"I love what I do, I have the best job in the world," smiles Mrs. Jones.
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