By Patricia O’Flynn Pattillo
For months, we read
about the cuts in teaching staffs, especially in music, gym and art.
Today we put a positive spin on teaching, retuning to music and living one’s passion; living one’s dream! Lisa Jones comes from a family of teachers!
For four generations, Milwaukee has benefited from the Jones’ family’s love of education, teaching, mentoring and building strong citizens. Lisa followed this path, not because she was goaded into it but because she genuinely loved it as well.
She taught music in Milwaukee Public Schools for over 13 years, but when cut-backs continued and her number was called, she thought she would re-invent herself and find another profession.
She taught at Huntington Learning Centers, briefly, and was even unemployed for a briefer period, but music remained her preference.
Jones had even decided she would move to find the job of her dreams! Then Racine Unified began Teacher’s Fairs and she decided to apply. Lisa Jones was hired as a Music Teacher with a school counseling background in fall 2009.
So in a few weeks, she will put her first year, in Racine, under her work experience column and she’ll record another year of living her dream.
Within the last three years, Racine has been busy with new initiatives and a thrust for change that has begun to permeate southeastern Wisconsin.
Racine has become a hot-bed for new national, state and local dollars targeted to improve educational attainments; improve graduation rates; create new job-generation incubators and strengthen women-owned business, health and banking opportunities. And, Lisa Jones is a part of that change!
As a student in high school, she found “herself” in music. “Ms. Debra Jupka, my chorus teacher at Rufus King inspired me. She was so caring and passionate about music, she made us all love the competitions we participated in.
The Wisconsin State Music Association competitions required rehearsals and practicing and we all appreciated the applause. They all made us know that we’d done a great job.
From Rufus King, Lisa went to the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, majoring in music education and continued in counseling for her Master’s Degree at Concordia University. “Milwaukee has so many advanced education options that we must remember and support these outstanding institutions. We can be a mecca for advanced degrees, our schools are superb, the areas and fields available are so broad, and completing transformative educations is so doable in Milwaukee and Racine”.
“Every five years, I have to take classes to renew my license. Today, I’m thinking about a new degree in math, teaching middle school and high school students. In high school, I also loved math but I loved music more. So, now I shall have an opportunity to exercise both loves. I am currently teaching math with music. Several of the teachers have said their students are benefiting from my math/music teaching techniques”.
Statistically, data has always supported the importance of music and the arts for children in elementary and middle school.
Youngsters with those expressive forms always do better in school. Yet, as budget constraints became a weekly news item, school after school removed recesses, followed by art in the classroom and then music was extracted from the curriculum.
“Students who play instruments, sing vocally, do better in school. We teach fractions, we add, subtract, multiply, using our notes”, teacher Jones, explains. “There’s even a little algebra.
Teachers say their math students do better after being in my classes. The children learn to read music with notes, it requires counting and following, but we also encourage writing and creating their own lyrics and songs. They’ve made many raps, and holiday songs and we have had contests for a school chant”.
Lower graduation rates, reduced school attendance and many of the behavioral problems associated with suspensions and expulsions can be directly linked to the elimination of the expressive arts. While these reductions were designed to save money, they have, in fact, cost more money through lower graduations and the resultant economic disparities that have magnified. “ Luckily Racine Unified acted upon these statistics rapidly. They believe that music is fundamental. Children miss out when they cannot express themselves; acting-out is the alternative. Why stunt the children’s natural ability”, she asks.
Lisa Jones is a teacher supreme! She, like her parents, grandparents and their parents, carries the baton for student excellence. She mentors a fourth grader in reading and has guided any number of college grads; armed service representatives; and three college students, currently matriculating in colleges throughout the U.S. She has shared her teaching techniques with an early childhood teacher with dyslexia who works with children with special needs, guiding them with patience and faith and confidence in their teacher.
“ It is said that a youngster who has not learned how to read by third grade will become a drop-out! We know we have to make teaching palatable, meaningful and successful, early in the child’s life. If school is perceived as “work” and the child is not succeeding in achieving the skills, that child will end up dropping out or shutting down, much too early. However, youngsters can all be taught; our challenge is finding out the way to teach every child what they need to learn. Of course, parents can make the teacher’s job a lot easier by beginning early skills in the home. Books, reading, repeating stories, coloring, painting, singing and making up their own songs are early childhood experiences that the typical child will enjoy. And, yes, you must applaud their successes”
“My Dad used to say, “If you can believe it, you can achieve it”! Today, we try to have our students believe they are capable, know we have high expectations for them and that they can and will achieve whatever they want to do! We want them to grow personally, become great future citizens and make contributions to their communities”.
Lisa Jones is the model of teachers most noble! She inspires and challenges her students and other teachers by continuously utilizing creative techniques to bring forth their best, in music and math and creative writing. Each expressive art form builds a confident student and rewards us in student achievement and future successes.