For 14 years, Carla Jones has been filling the minds of Cook Elementary students with knowledge and experiences. Yet according to this veteran teacher, she’s learned more from them than they have from her.

“Chicago was an adjustment for me,” said Jones. “I had to learn about the challenges of urban education and how what happens in the community affects the classroom.”

Jones grew up in Stone Mountain, Georgia, a suburb outside of Atlanta. The only child of engaged and supportive parents, she was encouraged to explore the ideas and activities that would help her find her voice. A taste for adventure brought her north to Chicago, while the desire to make a difference propelled her toward the classroom.

“To inspire a young life at an early age is priceless,” she said. “I can’t imagine doing anything better.”

Carla has spent her teaching career offering students love, understanding and knowledge, while in turn, they’ve taught her about commitment and resiliency.

“No matter what, they just keep going,” she said. “They come to school every day ready to learn, and that’s inspiring to me. It’s my privilege to give them the care and education they deserve.”

Carla has taught in grades K-5 during her time at Cook, but has a particular fondness for 3rd-graders, which is her age-level for this year.

Carla Jones

“The foundation has been laid, and now you can see them coming into their own,” she said. “They’re able to form opinions that are not just based on what their family or friends think, which is what makes those opinions suddenly valid.”

Just as her parents did for her, Carla works to help her students find their own voice and believe in it.

“”I like helping them start to understand the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’”, she said. “I ask them to push and challenge themselves and one another, teaching them to justify why they feel the way they do about a certain subject.”

Besides being an outstanding classroom teacher, Ms. Jones is a Framework Specialist and an instructor with Teach Plus, and has worked with colleagues and the Yale University faculty to write curriculum as part of the Yale National Initiative.

“Carla is a lifelong learner who is always looking for ways to equip herself with the latest trends in education,” said Principal Narineh Gharashor of Cook Elementary. “She finds new and engaging ways to reach her students, and is a teacher leader who dedicates her time and talent to developing and supporting her colleagues.”

Cook Students

A “Thank You” from Teacher to Teacher

Carla credits her success as an educator to several of her own teachers, including Ms. Johnson, the 1st-grade teacher who taught her to love school.

“: She was a calm, quiet teacher who made me feel loved in her class,” said Carla. “I don’t remember that much about the teaching, just that her classroom was a place that I always wanted to go.”

She also recalls the dedication of Ms. Hall, the 8th-grade Math teacher who refused to give up on her.

“Math was never my best subject, and I’d get really frustrated,” said Carla. “She worked with me before and after school, which she didn’t have to do, and wouldn’t give up until I got it. This teacher saw value in me and never made me feel dumb, which is something I always try to emulate in my classroom.”