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Jones looks to nature for a little perspective

Post Independent/Kelley CoxKirk Jones is a photographer, a gardener and a teacher, among other things.
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Music, literature, photography ” all passions for accomplished musician, teacher and photographer Kirk Jones.

Jones, 49, who is teaching for a second year at Yampah Mountain High School in Glenwood Springs, is active in the Aspen Choral Society and the Symphony in the Valley and inspires his students with his love of the arts. He’s also known for starting Yampah Mountain High’s garden behind the school building.

Jones said his mission as a teacher is to give students the tools they need to discover themselves, whatever that may be.



“You have to start where they are, and not start with some abstract expectation,” he said of teaching students. “When you try to force someone into seeing things as you see them, that’s when you’re going to lose them.”

He said when teachers can inspire their students to inquire about the world in which they live, it’s like a garden ” ideas are planted and quickly sprout and bloom.



It was with that in mind that Jones helped his students create the school’s garden last school year.

“Wouldn’t it be a great metaphor for life and wouldn’t it be interesting that the kids get their hands dirty a little bit?” he said. “So we build up some soil. They didn’t realize how much preparation (is needed for) a garden before you actually see the plants. That became a practical lesson in science.”

If the students ever want to create a garden of their own, “they’ve got the skills to be able to do that,” Jones said.

The metaphor of the garden has a deeper meaning for Jones, who spends time tending his own garden. Gardening, he said, gives him an understanding that “there are different time scales. Our modern world is so instant, but our bodies, our minds were formed with seasonal and annual and even longer range time scales.”

Jones calls our fast-paced world fascinated ” or distracted, perhaps ” with immediacy. But nature, he said, helps put natural rhythms into perspective.

The students who returned this year to find that their fledgeling garden had exploded into full growth found that to do good in the world can take merely the effort to plant some seeds.

Jones was born in Houston and went to college at the University of North Texas where he studied jazz.

Exposed to music early in life, he grew up marching around his house to Hans Christian Anderson and singing in church.

Though he said music is “who I am, it’s a passion,” he thought he was going to be a full time performer. “I found myself tutoring the other guys and realized that I didn’t want to live the life of a musician on the road, and I really had a proclivity for teaching.”

He owes that proclivity to a natural fascination with learning, he said.

Teaching was natural to Jones because, he said, teaching and art are both about communication.

“Trying to communicate more directly for me, that’s what music is about ” getting past the words, getting past the technique and trying to find the deeper meaning,” he said. “That’s what teaching does, too.”

Teaching, he said, has shown him that everyone is and individual who completely defies generalization. That’s why he approaches “everybody with a blank slate, so to speak.”

Jones lived in the Glenwood area for three years before moving away, living for a short time in Charlotte, N.C. before returning to Glenwood seven years ago. He has taught music for 20 years now, including a stint in Basalt Middle School where he taught brass.

Today, Jones works two jobs in addition to being active in the Aspen Choral Society ” teaching at Yampah and working as a night auditor at a hotel on the weekends.

“It’s a long week,” he said.

But the love of learning sustains Jones, who said the best advice to give students about success in life is for them to find their own best path.

“Discover a love of learning,” he said. “Find something that fascinates you, that gives you joy and (do that) as your life’s work.”

Contact Bobby Magill: 945-8515, ext. 520

bmagill@postindependent.com

Name: Kirk Jones

Age:49

Occupation: teacher at Yampah Mountain High School

Hometown: Houston, Texas

Years in Garfield County: 10

Favorite Place in Garfield County: The bank of Grizzly Creek


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