Jones has no regrets

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 8, 2003

Hank Jones is ending 31 years with Troy City Schools with no regrets.

That's a pretty happy ending for someone who hadn't even planned on sticking around.

&uot;I was actually on my way to Florence State Teachers College in 1969 when I stopped in Troy,&uot; he said.

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&uot;While I was walking across campus, I came across seven or eight people I had never seen before who were just as nice as they could be.&uot;

That was just before Labor Day.

He attended the first day of classes the Tuesday after Labor Day.

&uot;I was already 10 or 12 hours from home and I thought, 'Why go any farther?'&uot; the southwest Florida native said.

Eventually, he met and married his wife, Eulane, who is now a retired educator.

And now, 31 years later, he's still here.

&uot;Troy's been real good to me,&uot; he said.

&uot;I've had a lot of fun teaching a lot of kids.&uot;

It's a bit ironic that he is ending his career in the very place he began so many years ago.

While he was a student, he did his internship in the same place he works today, surrounded by certificates, family pictures and memorabilia.

Teacher Ann Ray was his supervisor and to this day Jones still names her as one of his role models for teaching.

Shortly after, in 1972, he became a full-time fifth grade teacher at Elm Street Elementary.

He also taught at Laura M. Henderson Elementary School until 1979.

During that year, Jones began his administrative career as vice-principal.

Cindy Miller worked with him at Laura M. Henderson and remembered him as being a well-respected teacher.

&uot;His real strength was social studies and he did a lot with that,&uot; she said.

&uot;He really liked challenging the kids.&uot;

She remembers that he was fair with the kids and good at disciplining them.

&uot;He used to point at his eyes with two fingers and say, 'Look at me in the eyes,' and they would.

Sometimes all it took was just one talk from him.&uot;

Every year, they took the fifth-graders camping for one night.

Miller remembers that Jones would take the students on two- or three-mile hikes and have to all but drag them back to the campsite.

Jones remembers that, too, and misses the kind of immediate contact teachers have with their students.

Jones carries many different memories from his years as a teacher and a principal.

Like the time when the first kindergarten class at Troy Elementary School ate lunch in the cafeteria.

The young students had never seen anything so big, and as they looked around with wide eyes, they lowered their trays and dumped their food on the floor.

Although he didn't laugh about it then, he laughs about it now.

&uot;The class graduating this year is the same group that started kindergarten that year.

They are a special class; they're the ones that dumped their trays on the floor,&uot; he smiled.

Experiences like those helped make Jones the administrator he is today, and he wouldn't trade them for the world.

Though he can look back and see where he could have worked harder or done more, he says he is leaving with no regrets.

He still plans on stopping by every now and then to visit his beloved teachers and students, but he says it's time for him to try other things.

Several months ago, his childhood friend suddenly died.

Jones hadn't seen him for two years because he was tied up at work.

&uot;I was too busy working,&uot; he said.

&uot;And that is a pretty poor reason.&uot;

On his way home from the funeral, he decided it was time to do what he had already been thinking about.

This October, Jones will close the school doors for the last time and do what he has always wanted to do.

Play golf when he wants, travel, visit friends, serve more in his church, spend time with his wife and dote on his six &uot;babies.&uot;

&uot;I love my family and I love being a granddaddy, it's the best job in the world,&uot; the father of three said.

&uot;There is just not a better job than that.&uot;