Terry E. Jones, a biology teacher at Galena Park High School, was presented the Texas A&M University Inspiration Award for Exceptional Education during Texas A&M University commencement ceremonies on Friday, May 15.
Teachers selected to receive this unusual award - believed to be the first of its type by any university in Texas - are nominated by one of their former students who are about to graduate from Texas A&M.
Recipients of the award are recognized during commencement ceremonies at the university where they are presented a check for $2,000. Their high schools receive $1,000.
As a university known for valuing excellence, leadership and service, Texas A&M sponsors the award as a way of recognizing those values in the teachers who have inspired and challenged their students to excel.
"As a consequence of meeting a great teacher, I now have the joy of calling myself a university student," says Jose Alfredo Rios, who nominated Jones for the award. Rios will be formally presented his diploma by Jones, an honor usually reserved for the university's president.
Rios, who did not speak English when he entered school, says he was struggling with biology and asked Jones for help. "He agreed to volunteer every afternoon to help me, even though I was not his student. Sometimes I spent up to three hours in his classroom. We went over many subjects including English and Spanish. My grades rose from ‘F’s and ‘D’s, to ‘A’s and ‘B’s in biology."
When family issues threatened to force Rios to drop out of school, he says Jones was able to find a solution that would let him stay. “It was decided that the best way for me to continue attending high school was for Mr. Jones to become my legal guardian,” Rio wrote.
"Mr. Jones not only helped me deal with high school subjects, but also with life itself. It must not have been easy for a teacher near retirement to accept a teenager into his home."
In addition, Rios says Jones encouraged him to go to college and helped him decide which one to attend by taking him around to visit different campuses.
"Mr. Jones, who still has not retired, is usually surrounded by students; he attends their sporting events and other activities for he believes a teacher is more than just an educator. He does so much more
than what is required from a teacher."
Rios says he plans to earn a master’s degree in curriculum and development and will soon complete his teacher certification. His goal is to continue in the footsteps of the teacher who inspired him and to have a positive impact on the lives of students in the same way that Jones on his life.
"Mr. Jones proved to me that every child can learn by helping this student that could not even pass high school biology," Rios said. “I will graduate with a B average and a double major in Spanish and political science with a minor in geology. I also speak three languages and was awarded a fellowship from the College of Engineering to study geology in Brazil in 2007. I have accomplished all of this because of one teacher who cared enough for me to help me change my life.”
Contact: Tura King at (979) 845-4670 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Terry Jones, center, is presented his award by Lt. Gen Joseph F. Weber USMC (Ret.),
Class of '72,
vice president of student affairs and Texas A&M President Elsa Murano.
Terry Jones enjoys a teaching moment at Galena Park High School.