‘Don’t be afraid of hard work,’ Bone says
by Peggy McEwan
A half-century ago, Jean Bone borrowed a car and drove from her home in Pennsylvania to Leland Junior High School in Chevy Chase for a job interview.
“A friend told me they had an opening for a math teacher,” she said. “I was hired on the spot.”
When school opens this month, Bone will not be in the classroom for the first time in those 50 years, having retired from the county school system at the end of the 2013-14 school year in June.
Bone, 75, who lives in Gaithersburg, has taught at schools throughout the county. When Leland Junior High closed, she transferred to Sligo Junior High in Silver Spring — Montgomery County didn’t begin the switch from junior high to middle schools until 1978 — then to Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, and back to middle schools, teaching at Ridgeview in Gaithersburg, Westland in Bethesda, Forest Oak in Gaithersburg and ending her career at Tilden Middle School in North Bethesda.
There have been some changes, to put it mildly, over the years, she said.
Not only the curriculum has changed significantly, she said, but the use of technology. She said she learned to use a computer for lessons, papers and grades, and to teach using a Promethean board, which connects information on a computer to an interactive whiteboard, learning as she was teaching.
“I think one of the biggest [changes] is the greater demands on teachers, the accountability, the test scores and seeing that every child is successful,” Bone said. “Of course you want all your [students] to be successful, but it’s not all the teacher. The parents need to be [helping] and the students need to be working.”
Bone has many fond memories of her years in the classroom, but one that is quite special is from 1993, when she was chosen for the Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award from the school system.
Getting the award was an honor, but the best part was the letters and cards she received, many from former students, she said.
One of her former students, Jason Szymkowiak, is also a math teacher at Tilden, Bone’s last school.
Bone said she thinks the Common Core curriculum is a welcome change because it puts math objectives in a better order: for example, teaching elementary students basic multiplication facts so that when they get to middle school they can learn to think.
“When you get to higher math you are fighting two battles — arithmetic and how do I reasonably solve this problem,” she said.
Her advice to teachers just starting their careers is to keep in mind that the goal is to make every child learn.
“Don’t be afraid of hard work. It’s the key to success,” she said.
She obviously took that advice to heart, according to Irina LaGrange, principal of Tilden Middle School.
“Throughout her career, Ms. Bone believed that a single dedicated teacher could make a positive difference in the life of a child.,” LaGrange wrote in an email. “She worked diligently to support her students both in the classroom and during lunch, in a group setting, as well as one-on-one. She believed in on-going professional development, cohort planning and collaboration with her colleagues, so that our students could have daily access to engaging and rigorous instruction that would prepare them for high school.”
Bone said she is not ready for complete retirement yet. She would like to help edit math textbooks and plans to do some substitute teaching this school year.
“I like to be busy,” she said.