Five Questions…with Mary Hawkins-Jones, Most Hopeful Teacher in America
Mary Hawkins-Jones, a fifth grade teacher at Westover Elementary School has been named the Most Hopeful Teacher in America by Gallup, Inc., and Atria books. MCPS QuickNotes had an opportunity to chat with Ms. Hawkins-Jones to learn more about her passion for teaching and belief in the power of hope.
When did you realize that you wanted to be a teacher?
When I was about 12 years old. My mom used to clean people’s houses. I went to work with her during the summer. One of the ladies had a younger daughter named Susie, who was 2 or 3 years old. The lady asked me if I could help teach her the alphabet, her numbers and colors. My job was to play with Susie and teach her the basics. A couple years later, my mom asked me if interested in teaching Sunday School class at church. She reminded me about Susie and told me I had done a good job. That’s what resonated in my mind.
In my family, whatever we decided to do, my parents encouraged. They told us to just make a plan and go with that. They never told us there were limitations.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part is seeing the future. I’m preparing my students for jobs that don’t even exist today. If I can give them hope and teach them how to make connections, make learning engaging and make it real for them, I don’t have to worry about the future. It’s going to be great. At the end of the year, I can look at my future and I’m able to smile.
Why is hope so inspirational, and what role does it have in education?
I know that when I give everything I have, they’re going to give it back to me in the future. My first year of teaching, I taught Cristina Ulrich (MCPS Teacher of the Year in 2012) at Langley Park McCormick Elementary School (in Prince George’s County). Cristina is an outstanding teacher. I like knowing that I played a small role in her future. And now, she’s doing that for her students and even though I don’t know her students, I’m still playing a part in their lives too. So I have a constant impact on the future. It’s that ripple of hope.
What can parents do to instill hope in their kids?
Model and practice are the keys to instilling hope. Parents need to model hope for their children in order to empower them to believe that there is more than one solution to any problem. Talk to your children about the future. Ask them about their goals, their dreams, and work with them to make them a reality. My parents valued education. They taught me that education would be the key to my hopes and dreams.
What is your hope for your students?
It is my hope that all students are able to embark on all endeavors with confidence and self-motivation.