PHS holds many memories for our current staff. Whether it revolves around hanging out with a friend group, going to basketball games, going out to eat or just walking around the town, there was always something to do. Art teacher Chris Jones has worked at PHS for 24 years, serving for our art department. He has been at Paoli since he was a kid and graduated from PHS in 1990.
“I’d just like kids to know what an awesome history Paoli really has. They may not think it looks like it now, but Paoli was a very neat little town at one time. It was a lot like Mayberry. We rode bikes to town, sledded on snow days and cruised town on Friday nights. We had homecoming parades and bonfires. There weren’t a lot of closed up businesses and boarded up storefronts. People seemed friendlier and more concerned for one another. There was always something to do, and when there wasn’t, we made up stuff to do,” said Jones.
Jones’s life at PHS was heavily influenced by many teachers and administration.
“Mrs. Tish Alder probably had the greatest impact on me. She was my art teacher and wouldn’t accept anything less that your best. And your ‘best’ was a matter of her opinion, not yours. She was tough, but I thank her for it,” said Jones.
English teacher Ruth Uyesugi, Spanish teacher Rachel Greathouse, now known as Rachel Carter, and math teacher Tom Stuckwisch all made Jones’s high school years memorable. Once he finished his education at IU Bloomington and IU Southeast, obtaining his Bachelor of Science and Masters of Science in education degrees, Jones came back to work for PHS. James Babcock was the principal at the time, and Jones fondly remembers his time under Babcock.
Having grown up in a small town, Jones did not have many people in his life who went to college to turn to for inspiration. It was not common for the students to go to college at the time, but Jones was determined.
“I don’t know that I had a lot of ‘big dreams’ or anything. Growing up in a small town like Paoli in those days, we were very insulated from the rest of the world. It seemed like everything we needed was right here. It wasn’t until I was about a junior or so that I even considered college as an option. I was always a good student, but didn’t really give much thought to what I was going to do next. By the time I was a senior, I decided I needed to go to school and get a degree. There wasn’t as big of a push for every kid to go to college back then. Most of my inner circle of friends weren’t going and my parents hadn’t gone, so when it was time to navigate the whole college thing, it was pretty scary. There was no internet and no email. People didn’t take college visits. You were kind of on your own,” said Jones.
After teaching for several years at PHS, there have been many changes to not only the school but also the community. Technology, involvement, the pressure to succeed and the physical appearance of the community have drastically changed since Jones was in high school. The students and staff use chromebooks for homework, tests, science labs and informational purposes, but Jones does not necessarily agree with the large usage of technology.
Jones also recalls that the push for college education was not as high as it is in today’s society. Students are now put under a lot of stress for their future compared to when Jones was in school. Jobs in Paoli were much more accessible for teenagers because of the factories and “Mom and Pop Shops.” There were many different stores that made Paoli more historically appealing and created an enjoyable atmosphere for students.
“We were allowed to be kids much longer when we were younger. Our parents weren’t as involved in our lives as they are today. I’m guilty now of it too, being overly involved in my kids’ activities. Back then, my parents worked, I went to school and in the evening and on weekends, we were home. Life has gotten a lot more hectic now,” said Jones.
High school comes with many lessons and regrets. Students may feel pressured to try something out, good or bad, or they may let other classmates influence their decision making. Whatever the case may be, Jones wants to change a few things about his high school career.
“I wish I’d taken more chances and gotten involved in things that I was afraid to try, and I regret caring too much about what other people thought and feeling like their opinions defined who I could be,” said Jones.
Jones and his wife, Katie, both work with students every day. His wife has been working at East Washington Elementary School as a school counselor for 14 years. The two have been married for 20 years and have three children together, senior Isaiah Jones, freshman Caleb Jones and third grader Hannah Jones. The Jones family attends Paoli Christian Church, and Chris serves as an elder.
Throughout his years in high school, Jones has learned a lot from his past experiences. He may seem to be just another teacher to some students, but to a lot of PHS students and staff, Jones has a huge role in their lives. He has several pieces of advice to share.
“Take advantage of all of the opportunities that have been laid out in front of you. Whatever you choose to do, do it well. Don’t blame others for your circumstances. The world won’t accept anything less than [your best]. Your circumstances are a result of the decisions you’ve made,” said Jones.
Story by Kinley Block