51 YEARS AT PHS: Joyce Jones, who will be retiring at the end of this year, in a 1970s Princeton High School (PHS) yearbook photo. Last Thursday, May 20, was Joyce Jones Day at PHS, celebrating her 51 years of service as a physical education teacher, coach, and peer group leader “with a vision for her students.” (Photo courtesy of Princeton Public Schools)
By Donald Gilpin
Celebrating Joyce Jones,” the banner read. “Teaching us to learn from the past, prepare for the future, and embrace the present.”
Last Thursday, May 20, was Joyce Jones Day at Princeton High School (PHS), honoring Jones on the eve of her retirement after 51 years at PHS — as physical education teacher, coach, and peer group program leader.
The celebrations included banners and balloons, music, commemorative pins, a special Princeton proclamation, and a wide range of tributes and reminiscences from former and current colleagues and guests.
In a phone interview last Saturday, Jones reflected on her career at PHS and “the moments when I think I’ve made a difference.”
She recalled the last meeting of her peer group leaders a few years ago when a graduating senior got up to speak: “‘Thank you for teaching my mom how to be a leader and facilitator,’ he said, and he also named his two brothers who had been in peer group. ‘And I’m the last one and I want to say thank you as well.’ Everyone was listening, and somehow that statement spoke volumes for me. As I reflect back I see that not just in coaching but also in the peer leadership program and in my classes, there are the students that I know I have touched, but there are also the ones I may have no idea I have influenced. That’s special.”
Jones started at PHS in 1970 “with a vision for her students and the desire to empower young women participating in sports,” according to Thursday’s proclamation. She was the PHS field hockey coach for more than 30 years, leading the team to the New Jersey State Championship in 1984. Also head coach of girls lacrosse at PHS, she coached that team to a state championship in 1985.
As part of the original peer leadership group staff, which created the program in 1979, Jones went on to help build up the peer group to include the entire ninth grade every year, and she was instrumental in developing a team of teachers to train participating seniors. Jones remains a part of the leadership of the peer group, which has been expanded and replicated in other schools throughout the region over the past 40 years. more