Derrick C. Jones '79

Jones says that he is “first, last, and always an educator”
Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Derrick C. Jones ‘79 says that he is “first, last, and always an educator” and that Appalachian would still be his “first, second and third choice in schools.” During his 33 years as a public educator, he often declared that he’s never worked a day in his life.

Jones attended high school in Wilmington, North Carolina, before enrolling at Appalachian in 1975. During his growing up years, he had the opportunity to provide special assistance to a cousin, Terry Washington, who was born with cerebral palsy. Jones acknowledges that his desire to work with challenging children and adults came from this formative experience with Washington.

After high school, Jones chose to attend Appalachian because of its highly recognized special education program. While at the university he had the chance to work with children in a special education recreational outlet program for exceptional children in Watauga County. He completed an educational internship in Morganton, North Carolina and did his student teaching in the same area. He also fulfilled internship requirements at the State Department of Education, in Raleigh, that focused on the community college system.

According to Jones, the teaching preparation program at Appalachian was "outstanding," equipping him with all the skills he would need to address the needs of students in the classroom setting.

Professors who made a significant impact on him were Dr. Aaron Randall, Dr. Michael Ortiz, Mr. Jesse Jackson in the Children’s Literature Department, Dr. Ray Hyter and Dr. Linda Blanton. “Appalachian State University prepared me well for the business of public education.”

Jones completed a master’s degree in special education at The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. While he was in graduate school, he met his wife, Denise, a first grade teacher. They currently reside in Virginia Beach, and have been happily married for 29 years.

Jones served 17 years in Virginia public schools as a special education teacher for students with various exceptionalities. For the final 16 years of his career he was a special education coordinator and assistant principal. Over the years, he has developed a fondness for working with elementary students, and he has spent the majority of his career at that level.

Jones has always enjoyed baseball. In fact, he admits a love of baseball was in his bloodline from birth. “Both of my parents were recognized players in community leagues. As a young boy, I collected baseball cards like other boys my age. In the middle sixties, we boys made stadiums of large cardboard boxes. Then, we played games against each other's favorite teams under a shady tree during the long hot summer days.”

Fast forward 23 years and we see Jones rekindling his interest in baseball and sharing that interest with children. “There is a great deal of children's literature related to Negro League baseball,” Jones said.

Jones interactive presentation about the history of Negro Leagues Baseball for elementary age children provides a means for them to “read to learn” and “learn to read” about America's history in a fun filled environment – using baseball cards. “I often shared with my students that there is a wealth of information on the back of baseball cards,” Jones said. In this way, he introduces students to Rube Foster as the "Pioneer'' for the league and Buck O'Neil as the "Ambassador" for the league. Other players highlighted are John Henry, Pop Lloyd, Judy Johnson, Artie Wilson and Monte Irvin.

Jones said, “It is my hope that the legacies and images of these unfamiliar Negro League baseball players will be recognized and respected for years to come.” This is a hobby for Jones and he enjoys his efforts as a hobby first. With this week-long residency at Appalachian, Jones says he has taken his hobby to a new level.

Now semi-retired, Jones says he believes that clean living, putting your best foot forward, sharing your life and loving people make for rewards you may receive later in life. “Having the opportunity to research and share information about Negro Leagues Baseball at Appalachian is like spiritual healing and living in ‘high cotton’ at the same time. To give back to the school and community that gave me my start is a ‘bottom of the ninth, walk off, grand slam, lights out’ experience for me.”