- Cama-i, quyana tailuci!
- (Central Yup’ik)
- "Greetings, thank you for coming!"
For the past 29 years students at Willow Crest Elementary in Anchorage have been learning life skills Leroy Jones has mindfully intertwined into his physical education classes.
Though Coach Jones is not the type to draw attention to himself or his success, his contributions earned him recognition as one of the country’s “Superhero Teachers” by The Happiness League, a social-emotional learning initiative spearheaded by LG with partners including CASEL and Discovery Education.
“I’m not teaching you to live in the gym. I’m teaching you to live in the world, and a lot of the skills that you learn here are applicable to what you’re going to be doing for the rest of your life,” Jones said.
Jones says he emphasizes the importance of making good choices and guarantees his students know that they will always receive respect, fairness and caring from him.
“These are all characteristics that we need to instill in our future,” Jones said. “I was in a class and it made a point to me that children are 25% of the population, but 100% of the future. And so what I feel personally is that what we do as educators will have a tremendous impact on the future. That’s why it’s important that we instill these things into these children.”
While Jones may be the one teacher at the school officially recognized as a “Superhero Teacher,” he doesn’t take any credit without acknowledging the team effort of educators across the district promoting social-emotional learning.
“I feel anybody within this school or even the district could have received this award because we have amazing people in this district, and I can tell you without a doubt. I’m just privileged to be working with such a winning team from the principal on down,” Jones said.
Jones has been at Willow Crest Elementary all 29 years of his teaching career and is at the point where he has taught former students’ children. His advice to newer educators is simple: listen.
“I tell children all the time, if you have something to say, then it’s important to me that I hear it,” Jones said. “They know that if they tell me something is wrong, then I’m going to deal with it. If they’re having a problem, they know they can come talk to me. Be approachable. Be that person that a child can talk to and be heard. That is more important than anything else.”