(BRANDENBURG, KY) – Many educators have made an impact on Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass, but the educator he spent the most time with was his choir teacher, Shirley Jones. On Aug. 9, Glass returned to his hometown of Brandenburg to the Meade County school district’s opening day ceremony to present the Greenwave Legacy Award to Jones.
Jones was a choir teacher for more than 20 years at Stuart Pepper Middle School and Meade County High School. Glass began taking classes with Jones in 7th grade by joining the Cambiata Chorus and continued to be one of her students until he graduated from Meade County High School in 1990.
Speaking to the 700 employees in attendance, Glass shared the impact Jones made on his personal and professional life. While he has not been spending his career working in music, he said choir taught him life lessons that continue to shape him into the person he is today. He credits Jones for teaching him “how to not be defeated by a setback, but to get up, to get back to work, and to believe in myself and in others.”
“I’m no professional or great musician or artist, but what I learned from Shirley Jones is that if you pour your heart into something you truly care about, and if you are willing to commit to that effort, then real greatness emerges – a greatness we are all capable of achieving,” Glass said.
Jones said she was not expecting the award when she came to the school for the opening day ceremony and she was honored Glass returned to Meade County to present it to her.
“I’m so proud of him. I’m proud that he values teachers, arts education and the impact of an arts education,” she said. “When he came into my classroom for the 7th grade Cambiata, little did I know that he was going to stay with me for six years. Little did I know how I had impacted him during that time. He gleaned from [choir] what I wanted every student to walk away with – dedication and commitment.”
While Jones has many memories of Glass and his friends in choir, she said one distinct memory comes to mind when she thinks of him. On a trip to Washington, D.C., to perform on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, U.S. Rep. William Natcher invited the students in for a tour. Jones remembers a moment during the tour going through the tunnels when Glass and his friends appeared awestruck. The memory holds a special place in her heart as an example of the opportunities she wanted to give every one of her students.
“I look back on teaching and how I poured into the students. You have to set the bar high and you have to strive for that, and you have to show love while doing so,” she said.
For 30 years, Jones served as an educator across Kentucky and South Carolina. Her career started in Jefferson County Public Schools before she moved with her husband to South Carolina for three years. During that time, she received her master’s in music education at the University of South Carolina. She returned to Kentucky and began substitute teaching for Meade County schools.
After serving as a part-time music educator at one of the elementary schools, Jones was asked to direct the middle and high school choral programs. She continued to direct the music education programs until her retirement.
The Greenwave Legacy Award honors three Meade County School District employees every year – classified, certified and administrative employees. The Greenwave Award for a classified employee was presented to Hilda Farris, who served as a transportation employee for 25 years.
The Greenwave Award for an administrator was presented posthumously to Barry Hahn, who served in the Meade County School District for 45 years. Prior to retiring in 2005, Hahn was as a teacher, guidance counselor and assistant superintendent. Hahn died on Dec. 9, 2018, at age 81. To honor his legacy, the Meade County Board of Education renamed Brandenburg Primary to Barry Hahn Primary School.