Born to teach
Shelley Jones creates new ways for Palmetto College students to get the full learning experience
By Page Ivey, email@example.com, 803-777-3085
Shelley Jones says teaching is not only in her blood — both parents were educators — but has been a part of her life since childhood.
“I come from educators. My mom was an English teacher,” says Jones, an assistant professor of English in Extended University and Palmetto College. “But I’ve also been very fortunate to have had some excellent English teachers throughout my life who saw the potential in me before I saw it. They were vocal about it, very encouraging and motivating, definitely inspirational.”
Jones brings more than a love of revision and genre in Romantic Era poetry. She also is a problem-solver. When she saw that some of her Palmetto College students would benefit from an alternative to the required internship course, Jones created a service-learning class that could provide comparable learning outcomes.
Students had been required to spend 140 hours onsite — about 10 hours a week — for the internship class.
“For a lot of our students, that wasn’t necessarily doable or it could cause strain,” Jones says. “A lot of our students are returning for goals that aren’t related necessarily to their careers. We have a good contingent of retirees. We also have students who are not necessarily getting their degrees for career advancement or to develop a new career, but they have academic or personal goals.
“So the service learning course I developed meets that particular student need while rising to the same rigor as the internship course — even though it is 40 hours instead of 140 hours — because we add research and writing to the experiential learning.”
That course was a first of its kind at the university, says Chris Nesmith, associate provost for Palmetto College.
“While there are other classes across the university that incorporate service learning into their curriculum, Dr. Jones has developed the first course at USC which has service learning as its primary course content,” Nesmith says. “Not only did she work to propose and develop this course, but she also worked with others across the university, including the Office of Student Engagement and the Center for Teaching Excellence.”
One of the unstated goals of my class is, despite their full lives and their workloads and their family commitments and their school work, these students can find meaningful ways to serve their larger communities.
The new course has required a whole new skillset for Jones, including creating partnerships with community organizations that work with students at a distance.
“So instead of working onsite, students can do their work on their own time as long as they’re meeting deadlines,” she says. “But if they’re in their pajamas or after putting their kids to bed or getting off their second-shift job, they are able to then complete the work when it fits with their schedule.”
But there is another piece of the puzzle for Jones and that is to create graduates with an understanding of community service and how it can fit into even the busiest schedules.
“One of the unstated goals of my class is, despite their full lives and their workloads and their family commitments and their school work, these students can find meaningful ways to serve their larger communities,” Jones says.
Winning the Garnet Apple teaching award so early in her career — she has been on the tenure track only since 2015 — has been an honor, she says, especially if it brings attention to the innovative work she and her colleagues are doing at Palmetto College.
“The successes that I have had I owe to the communities that are around me — my colleagues in Palmetto College and my students, as well.”
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