Pioneer teacher named NCW Teacher of Year
Camille Jones, a teacher at Pioneer Elementary School, was chosen the North Central Washington Teacher of the Year.
Jones, a Quincy High School alum, also became a finalist for the statewide version of the award, which will be chosen in September.
Nik Bergman, the outgoing principal at Pioneer Elementary who moves into the assistant superintendent position this fall, nominated Jones for the award in March. An interview-and-application process with the North Central Educational Services District followed, until last week when she found out she had won.
A graduate of Seattle Pacific University with a degree in Spanish, Jones attended Quincy High School. Some of the teachers who she looked up to – and still looks up to – still are teaching in the district, making this award a little surreal for her, as she doesn’t see herself as being as good as those teachers yet, she said.
“It’s like they are in a whole different level,” Jones said.
Before joining the Quincy School District last year, Jones taught third grade at Ephrata’s Columbia Ridge Elementary for four years.
Prior to that, she studied Spanish and linguistics at SPU, graduating with a double major. She said she always thought she would work with children, but she didn’t think teaching would be for her.
“I like playing with them or working with them in smaller groups,” she said. “I thought all of those kids at once would be hard. I really didn’t think I wanted to be a teacher until I came back here and worked in summer school as a para (educator).”
The time as a paraeducator helped her realize that she could be a teacher after all, so she earned her teaching certificate from Central Washington University.
With her job occurring in an overwhelmingly Hispanic school, the decision to major in Spanish looked pretty good, Jones said, adding that it helps to be able to communicate in the native tongue of many of her students, some of whom still haven’t mastered English. She has lived in Spain and Mexico and has visited Peru, Chile and the Dominican Republic.
At Quincy, Jones teaches an enrichment class known as STEAM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. She sees every class twice a month, working to integrate all five elements into that time with art.
“It’s almost the same as STEM,” she said of the classes that teach the older children science, tech, engineering and mathematics. “But this is the new wave, because we are realizing that the STEM skills are not going to be enough if we don’t teach kids that they have to infuse creativity and imagination into scientific or technological or engineering problems.”
Jones said she uses her STEAM platform to take the fear out of the classes that spooked her when she was in school, subjects such as physics and chemistry. Jones said she wants her students to know that there’s chemistry everywhere, like when parents cook a meal, and that physics is a topic they can learn and master.
“If everyone leaves Pioneer knowing what an engineer is — great,” she said.
— By Sebastian Moraga, email@example.com