“Academic success and becoming skilled in the construction trade are marks I want to leave with my students. Five years from now I hope my students will say the most valuable lesson they learned from me was to love unconditionally and serve others with joy.”

Kristie Jones teaches construction and carpentry at Franklin County Career and Technical Center in Meadville, Mississippi. Jones inherited her love of woodworking from her father, who she shadowed as he worked, learning the value of the trade and the importance of giving back to others.

Jones welcomes her students into a safe and positive classroom, where snacks are free and hands-on learning opportunities are plenty. Opportunities include local building competitions hosted by Jones and community service projects. One of the first projects students build are beds that they donate to families in need through a partnership with Child Protective Services and local churches. Jones said she assigns this project to build a sense of community and altruism in her students. Jones’s goal is to make an impact in her community and the lives of her students.

“Teaching in the trades is such a unique position,” Jones said. “Because I’ve taught in other fields, I recognize what an opportunity I have to shape my students as I work hand in hand with them.”

Jones invites industry professionals to enhance her classroom lessons and to connect students with work opportunities. Her carpentry students worked hand in hand with a local construction company to build a small business next door to their school. Crew members mentored students and reinforced industry standards as students put on a shed roof and siding. Driving past that business daily, her students feel a sense of pride knowing they helped that enterprise to launch.

Jones empowers her students through community service projects, industry professional connections, and local skilled trades competitions. Her program’s success is evident. All of Jones’s students participate in SkillsUSA competitions, and in 2022, 100 percent of her students earned a national certification in construction and/or carpentry.

Outside of teaching, she owns a woodcraft business where she mixes carpentry with art to create custom pieces. Honing her skills as an artist and craftsperson, Jones has been able to pass the love of this craft on to several of her students, one of whom has started his own small business in woodturning.

Jones has a master’s degree in special education and credentials in construction, carpentry, and science. She sits on the board of directors of DonorsChoose, a non-profit organization that matches teacher requests with donors nationwide.

Before winning this year, Jones was a finalist for the 2021 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.

“Teaching construction and carpentry is much more than tools and sawdust. Each year, I work very hard to build an appropriate relationship with my students. I make sure they have all they need to be ready to learn.”