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Former first-grade teacher leaves legacy, love for education to generations of students

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Former first-grade teacher leaves legacy, love for education to generations of students

Today in History for June 21st
Highlights of this day in history: Three civil rights workers disappear in Mississippi; John Hinckley, Jr. found not guilty by reason of insanity for shooting President Ronald Reagan and three others; Britain’s Prince William born. (June 21)

Port Barre Elementary was a fixture in Virgie Lee Jones’ life. As an adult, she lived across the street from the school where her husband was principal and where she taught first grade for 34 years.

And, in turn, she became a fixture in the lives of generations of students.

“She’s touched at least three generations of families, I’m sure,” her son, Chad Jones, said.

Her students called her Mrs. Jones in the classroom, but after retirement, she became Mrs. Virgie as she volunteered in schools, churches and at community events. For years she’d help with Black History Month programs and a social club’s debutante ball.

She even tutored for a while, Jones said.

“She stayed involved until she couldn’t anymore,” he said.

His mother passed away June 16 at age 86.

“It was kind of a long battle,” Jones said. “She had dementia and had gone through a lot.”

Those who knew her are remembering their time with her.

‘She wanted to see me do well’

Kyle Sylvester, 43, was one of Mrs. Jones’ first-graders and later saw her at events at his church. Today he is pastor of St. Mary Missionary Baptist Church in Port Barre.

“She would come visit the church when she was well,” Sylvester said. “We stayed connected into adulthood.”

He described his former teacher as “one-of-a-kind” and like a parent. His mother was a paraprofessional at Port Barre Elementary, and she had given Mrs. Jones full rein to discipline and correct him, Sylvester said.

“It was like she was my mother, like another parent,” Sylvester said. “I still talk about her.”

That relationship remained intact after he left her classroom and saw her outside of school.

“If she saw me doing something I had no business doing she’d tell me: ‘You know your mama wouldn’t want you doing that,'” Sylvester remembered. “She wanted to see me do well.”

While at Port Barre Elementary, Jones never had his mother as a teacher, but he could see her love and dedication for children. But to him, she was Mom.

“She never made me feel like she wasn’t my mom at school, but she was not overbearing,” he said.

From ‘farm girl’ to Southern University

Born the daughter of sharecroppers in Port Barre, she was a “farm girl” who eventually earned her teaching degree at Southern University in Baton Rouge, her son said.

She later earned a graduate degree, often associated with administration, but she chose to stay in the classroom, Jones said.

She aimed to pass down that passion to her children and students. Jones and Sylvester both remember her telling children to finish school and that education was something they could never lose.

They took her advice to heart. Today, Sylvester teaches from the pulpit, and Jones helps students to enroll in college and apply for financial aid. Jones taught fifth-grade for a year and loved it, he said, when he got the offer to work at LSU Eunice. He’s been there since 1994.

“I’m kind of doing like my mom,” he said.

Mrs. Jones was the mother of three children — Lucretia, Cynthia and Chad Jones. Her husband, Wesley Jones, died in 2003.

Funeral service details are still being finalized, according to the family.

Contact children’s issues reporter Leigh Guidry at Lguidry@theadvertiser.com or on Twitter @LeighGGuidry.

This content was originally published here.

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