Tualatin's Vern Jones influenced students' lives for more than four decades

JonesFor 41 years, Vern Jones has molded young minds at Lewis and Clark College. But when classes end this spring, so will his teaching career.

“Even as he retires, (Vern) retains the passion and intellectual rigor of a person new to the field,” said Peter Mortola, professor of counseling and school psychology at Lewis and Clark. “He holds high standards for himself, his colleagues and his students, all of which I think are seen as a respect for the capabilities of the individual.”

In the past four decades, Jones embraced the wide array of jobs offered under the education umbrella. He was a teacher in the Parkrose School District in Portland, a middle school vice principal in the Beaverton School District, a director for Vancouver School District, a consultant in 25 states, Teacher Education Department chairman at Lewis and Clark, and the associate dean of Lewis and Clark’s Graduate School of Education and Counseling. Jones was also a guest professor at the University of Idaho, Reed College and Portland State University. During this time, he wrote numerous books, articles and chapters about his practices.

“When people said, ‘Why are you going into education?’ I said, ‘Why wouldn’t you?’” recalled Jones. “I don’t think I can remember many days where I didn’t come home and say, ‘Wow, I made a difference today.’”

The difference Jones made spreads across the entire education field, colleagues say.

“Many view Vern Jones as the ‘guru’ of classroom management on a national and international scale,” said Kasi Allen, associate professor of education at Lewis and Clark. “His insights and classroom strategies have influenced thousands of teachers, thus shaping the school experiences of perhaps millions of children.”

Jones turned around the way behavior is dealt with in schools, shifting the fault away from the student and looking at the system as a whole. What’s the peer community like? How are punishments dealt with? What’s the student/teacher relationship? Does the student know how to deal with emotion?

Jones acknowledged that while many children naturally know how to deal with emotions like anger, anxiety and frustration, some simply aren’t equipped with those skills. Much of his work focused on helping educators teach these skills that would help students in every aspect of their lives.

“I think all children and young people should have the chance to feel good about themselves as learners and feel that school is a healthy, supportive place where they can be successful,” Jones said. “That’s what I’m about.”

He loved it enough that after all these years, the 68-year-old Tualatin resident never got tired of it. Though, he admits he did grow weary of consulting, which he gave up in 2005, but teaching was never a burden. As for his reason to retire, he said, quite simply, it was just time to move on.

“I’m going to miss the students. No question,” Jones said. “I love teaching. I will miss the teaching more than anything.”

But, it’s not just Jones who will find himself missing aspects of the job. After four decades in the same place, his absence will leave a hole.

“What will be missed (about Vern)? Wisdom. Expertise. Phenomenal sense of the big picture in education and what is going on across the U.S. collegiality. Laughter in the hallways,” said David Ward, assistant professor in Lewis and Clark’s Graduate School of Education and Counseling.

With all of his extra hours, Jones plans to catch up on the things he didn’t have much time for during his career. Fly fishing. Golfing. Vacations. Spending time with his two grandkids. Writing for the sake of writing. Even at his busiest, however, Jones still made time for his family and his wife, a fellow retired educator of 37 years. He also managed to coach his now grown children’s soccer teams.

And at the end of the day, he can honestly say he wouldn’t have changed a thing.

“To do this for 44 years — it’s not a bad gig,” he said. “In fact, I would have to say it’s probably the best possible gig.”

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