The Daytona Beach News-Journal | by Cassidy Alexander | November 30, 2020
Marlo Jones looks forward to the “We Didn’t Start the Fire” project in her classes every year.
The DeLand High School teacher plays Billy Joel’s musical summary of four decades of U.S History over and over for her students as they research the different historical milestones in the song — everything from the Cold War to Woodstock. In the spring students write papers, make presentations and come up with visuals as a way to review the year, with Joel’s anthem as their soundtrack.
“After a couple of weeks, they usually love me or hate me,” she laughed. “My students call me ‘extra’ a lot of times. If I’ve gotta stand on the desk and tap dance to get their attention, then that’s what I’ll do.”
That commitment to engaging her students is what makes Jones The News-Journal’s Amazing Teacher for the month of November.
“She brings history alive every day,” said DeLand High Principal Melissa Carr.
Jones has been teaching for 13 years at DeLand High, the same high school she attended. She credits her instructors with her start in teaching.
“They taught us how to be free thinkers,” Jones said. “I definitely think they laid a foundation for me to want to follow in their footsteps.”
Now, she works mostly with 11th graders — to teach them history, of course, but also those same critical thinking skills she learned on campus when she was younger that turned her into an active member of her community.
School is often thought of as a way to turn children into “productive members of society,” but Jones thinks that’s the wrong way of thinking about it.
“It just always sounded so cold,” she said. “I tell my kids every day, I don’t care what you believe, I just want you to start forming opinions and start to care. I want to help make communities more engaging.”
In many ways, those Billy Joel lyrics that play on repeat in her room — “We didn’t start the fire / No we didn’t light it, but we tried to fight it” — summarize exactly what Jones hopes her students will be motivated to do when they leave her classroom.
“I want them to make a change,” she said.
About this series
- As part of an effort to honor the work of teachers in Volusia and Flagler counties, The News-Journal and All Aboard Storage are sharing stories of educators who have made an impact on students’ lives with a different story each month.
- Go to news-journalonline.com to see more stories about inspiring teachers.
- To nominate a teacher, visit news-journalonline.com.
Featured image: Marlo Jones. David Tucker