When Odessa High School teacher Frederica Jones earned her degrees in higher education, she wanted to prove a point: It’s not how you start; it’s how you end up.
A native of Shreveport, La., Jones has racked up an associate degree from Southern University, a bachelor’s degree and master’s in business administration from Wiley College and Belhaven University, respectively, and most recently a doctorate in education from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.
She is now a behavior support teacher at OHS who helps children who are emotionally disturbed, autistic or have behavior issues, but has aspirations of becoming an assistant principal.
Certified in special education, she has finished her third year with Ector County Independent School District.
From outward appearances, it seems Jones was destined to become an educator, but that wasn’t always the case.
She dropped out of high school at 16.
“By the age of 19, I had three children, so I was actually a teenage mother. I just made a lot of bad choices. I actually just decided I wanted to make a change in my life. The only way I saw to be able to do that is I just recommitted myself to Christ,” Jones said.
The church she was a member of, Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Shreveport, was full of educators — principals, teachers and superintendents — and that was an inspiration to her.
“… I think that was my calling. I think dealing with children who have behavior issues, at-risk children, I know that’s my gift because I have a natural way of dealing with the children because … I was one of them at one time,” Jones said.
As a young girl, she had behavior problems that stemmed from not being able to grasp her lessons.
“I was pretty and popular and didn’t want to threaten that position or be labeled as dumb. Therefore, I would misbehave and get put out and not own up to the fact that I was not understanding,” Jones said in an email.
She added that these are things she sees every day when working with special education students.
Jones said her church in Shreveport pushed her away from education, but she has the type of spirit that if you tell her she can’t do something, she’s going to prove you wrong.
“I like solving problems. I like to find out what’s the root of the problem. Most educators don’t want to deal with kids who have behavior problems and I invite the children who have the behavior problems,” she added.
After earning her GED in 2003 and her associate degree, she felt so good that she just kept going.
Her first year of teaching was in 2007 when she completed her bachelor’s degree.
She completed her master’s degree in 2011, but it was a big challenge because she was diagnosed with a Chiari malformation that caused a lot of neurological problems.
She had to have brain surgery, but two weeks later, she was back in the classroom because she was determined to complete her degree.
The surgery was in 2011 and she’s still adjusting. Jones said she was diagnosed with a learning disability after the surgery.
Jones is now dependent on learning things visually, so she could not take her doctoral courses online.
Starting out, she and members of her cohort went to the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor about twice a month, and as she earned more credits, once a month.
“I give God the glory because as I said the degree does not belong to me because I know that the purpose of this degree is to show other people that it’s not how we start, it’s how we finish,” Jones said.
She added that she wants to be an inspiration to students and others.
Jones has been through the ECISD principal’s program and is already enrolled in a principal certification program.
However, she wants to become an assistant principal.
“… I know being an assistant principal I would be able to reach a lot of the children and help solve problems and be a motivation to those children,” she said.
Jones has three children, one of whom is deceased, and three grandchildren.
Her son lives in Shreveport and her daughter, Brandy Vinson, is a special education teacher at Bowie Middle School.
Jones said Vinson has a master’s degree and is planning to earn a doctorate.
At first, Jones said Vinson fought the idea of furthering her education and just wanted to earn her bachelor’s degree and teach.
“Education has been part of my life since I was a little girl. Watching my mother, ‘a high school dropout,’ pursue her GED and then her first degree helped me to know anything is possible,” Vinson said in an email. “My mother inspires me in many ways to continue my education and to become a lifelong learner. She always says, ‘It is never too late to pursue your goals’ and that education is key.”
“I’m walking in her footsteps as I pursue my doctorate degree. I am super proud of her! She tells her testimony and so do I hoping this motivates students to strive for excellence. In her words, ‘the best is yet to come!’” she added.