The Student News Site of Pella High School


The Student News Site of Pella High School


The Student News Site of Pella High School


Suzi Jones

Three Acts of Her Well Led Life
Lacy Bainum

Act One: Her Youth Years

When you hear the name Suzi Jones, a lot of different things come to mind. You could think of her as an English teacher, a director, a speech coach, or a colleague. But many students don’t know about Jones’ life before she came to live and work in Pella. Jones has led an exceptional career here at Pella High School for the past 17 years. She has grown the speech department to over 100 students, won the IHSSA Theatre Educator of the Year award, and presented at many different conferences and conventions for the IHSSA. 

Jones went to Valley High School in West Des Moines. When she was in high school, she was a part of the mime troupe The Baker’s Dozen. This troupe has been around since the early 1960’s and has gained much traction and recognition. PBS did a special on The Baker’s Dozen back in 2017. Jones’ pictures were featured in the special. 

Once Jones’ graduated from Valley, she went on to college at the University of Northern Iowa to get her first degree in education. Once she graduated from college, she taught for one year in Alta, Iowa.  She then married Keith Jones and moved to West Virginia. In West Virginia, she didn’t teach but instead worked for American Red Cross Blood Services. Afterwards, she worked as a social worker for pregnant and parenting teenagers. Afterwards, she taught job readiness and job search skills to unemployed coal miners.

“Sometimes when people complain about teaching, I think of the jobs that I had in West Virginia, and it reminds me that teaching is a very good job, and that I shouldn’t complain as much,” said Jones. “I don’t think I would have appreciated teaching as much if I didn’t have these other jobs.”

After working with coal miners, her husband was hired as a professor at the University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota. While in South Dakota, Jones went back to teaching, and worked a very similar job to the job that she has now at Pella. She gained a lot of experience here, and it helped make her a better teacher. Finally, her husband got a job at Central College and it led them to where they are today.

Act Two: The Teacher

Jones’s devotion to her craft is apparent in every aspect of her academic life. According to DeMuth, she goes above and beyond to assist her students and it is evident that she is truly dedicated to her work. Jones never falters in her dedication to her students. She is always willing to go the extra mile to ensure that they have the support they need to succeed. 

Whittington states that Jones is always ready to lend a helping hand or provide words of encouragement. She is a team player who is constantly seeking ways to collaborate and support her fellow educators. Overall, Jones’s hard work and passion for her profession have not gone unnoticed. Her coworkers and students are inspired by her dedication and commitment.

“I feel like Jones is always willing to try new strategies, and she is really good at finding new, current things to try in the classroom. Jones constantly uses outside resources.” said Ashlee Whittington, Jones’ colleague. “She has earned all the credits, and she’s taken a lot of grad credits to be able to teach college American Literature and Oral Communications,”

Even though Jones has been teaching here at Pella for 17 years, she still continues to find new ways to improve her teaching skills. On top of teaching three different classes, she has also worked very hard to earn 2 master degrees and half of a master’s degree in communications to continue to teach Oral Communications

 Jones has multiple family members who were also teachers and grew up surrounded by educators. Jones claimed she didn’t know too much about educating high school students, but she found out she had a draw toward teaching English. She states that she was more interested in learning the material than actually teaching. But as her love for the material grew, so did her passion for teaching.

“I really do like teaching and learning new things. I like the subject matter that I teach,” said Jones. “But because I have so little time, it is hard to teach all my classes and grade everything. And that’s just hard by itself! But even if I wasn’t teaching and I was only coaching and directing, there would still be a lot of work to do, and you never seem to have enough time to do it.”

Even though Jones feels like she is falling behind, or enough time to complete everything, her colleagues look up to her and her ability to get things done at the rate she does. Whittington claims that their department is “baffled” by how she always gets things done.

Her colleagues aren’t the only ones who see her hard work shine through. Many of her students are amazed by her productivity., and her organized chaos in her classroom. 

“What I believe makes Jones a great teacher is her willingness to help students. If a student doesn’t understand the material we’re working on, whether it be a book, a poem, or writing a paper, if you ask her for help, she will provide it,” said sophomore Alexander DeMuth. “She’s also understanding and is more than willing to provide you with an extension on your projects if you have a lot on your plate. Overall what makes her a great teacher is her dedication to making sure all of her students succeed.”

Whittington states, besides being an amazing teacher and colleague, she is also an amazing friend, mother and grandmother. She is committed to the program and to the school, and she always puts her best foot forward in everything that she does.

“She is really understanding. There have been times when I am overwhelmed with having small kids at home, and then she has worked together with me to make a better schedule for myself. She is flexible and she is super committed,” Whittington said.

According to Jones, American Literature is her favorite class to teach because she always finds new material to add to her plans. She loves looking and searching for new material because it keeps her brain sharp, and she’s able to learn. Many English teachers express that they have no interest in teaching American Literature because of how demanding and stressful it is. But Jones claims that is why she loves it. Her passion and love for the work really shines through to the students, and while it is a tough college class, she makes it enjoyable and learnable for high school students.

“My favorite class with Jones has been in American Literature, because she manages to make what could be an extremely dull and boring class into an entertaining experience that I look forward to everyday,” said DeMuth. “She provides useful (and often funny) ancillary information about the authors we study, and makes our days of review before our tests enjoyable by having the class play games such as Jeopardy.”


Act Three: Head Honcho of Speech

 Jones has been the head speech coach since she started working here, and she has worked tirelessly to grow and work in the speech department for 17 years. When she first came here, the speech department only had 30 participants, and only one speech coach. She has now grown the speech department to over 100 participants at a time and has three other speech coaches to help as well.

Jones expressed that the speech department is more successful than it used to be. Due to her coaching skills and her immense talent, students are able to perform successfully at the district, state and All-State level. She has reached multiple different people in the high school, and works to make sure that the team is inclusive to all.

I feel good about the number of people that have been involved with speech and drama. It was just pretty much a one person show when I got here for all of it. And now there are four speech coaches,” said Jones. “We have multiple people who help with plays and musicals. So just being able to reach more people and more students because there is more faculty involved with speech and drama has been a huge success.”

 Jones gained experience from South Dakota and when she came to Iowa, she became involved in many state organizations and has served as a committee member for the Iowa High School Speech Association. She presents at conferences regularly. This year alone she has presented at The Iowa High School Speech Association Coaches convention and at Iowa Communication association and Sioux City.
“What makes Jones a great speech coach is not only her experience and time spent coaching, but also her willingness to roll with someone’s idea that’s new and unique,” said DeMuth. “Her wide range of experience and is able to help performers that aren’t quite sure what they want to do, and yet also an openness to new ideas is what truly makes her a great speech coach.” said DeMuth

Thirteen years ago, Jones and Brystal Hopkins started a drama camp for elementary and middle school students. This was a week-long camp that took place at the community center, where kids could learn more about drama and theater and present a small play for their family by the end of the week.

After 13 years of working with the camp, Jones has finally put in her letter of resignation. The future plans have not yet been established with the program, and since Jones is no longer the director, she states that she would like to focus on starting a Middle School drama program.

Drama camp was a way for me to scout out the talent from middle school. I was super frustrated that there was no middle school drama program here in Pella, so that is why I needed to start drama camp, because our department was so small.”

The Drama Camp program truly was an amazing way to nurture and scout out future talent. Many of the Drama Camp students became involved with speech or thespians at least once during High School. Even outside of the school building, Jones is nurturing her students (and future students, to their full potential.
Jones is involved in so many things across the state, and gives up so much of her time to push more organizations and so much of her time to things here at PHS and in the community. Because of her passion and drive for the program, Whittington agrees that she would be perfect for the IHSSA Theatre Educator of the Year award, which is presented to one speech coach from Iowa each year.
“Because she is involved in so many different things, I thought she would be a great candidate for the award because it highlights people who contribute to the world of speech, drama and theater. But the nomination didn’t come directly from me, the nomination came from Stacy Hansen with IHSSA. All of that nomination process came from our state director.”

With any activity in high school, comes a price tag. With that, speech and thespians are no different. Kids still have to spend money on costumes, clothes for competitions, and more. The community has to spend money on tickets to our shows. But it is extremely important to Jones that prices remain affordable so that the department can reach as many community members as possible.

She is always concerned about keeping things affordable for the program and kids in the program as well. I have seen that from admission prices, because we work really hard to keep them low. I have seen an offer to buy a pair of black pants for somebody that doesn’t have any. She is great at pushing kids and supporting kids from all different backgrounds.”

 Jones is able to adapt to all surroundings, and is able to meet kids where they are. Whether that be her American Literature student, or one of her actors. She is willing to work with students through whatever they need to in order to achieve the level of greatness she sees in them.
When I graduate, the thing I will miss most about Jones will probably be her commitment to having every student succeed and become as successful as possible.,” said DeMuth. “Jones has been the teacher most committed to making sure I have every tool in my repertoire to succeed in school and life. I don’t think I will find another teacher as committed to my excellence as Jones has been.”


Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Faith Vandenberg, Executive Print Editor
Faith is a junior this year, and this is her third year on the staff. She likes to write features, reviews, and opinion articles. She also does a lot of photography for the staff. This is her first year as the Executive Editor of the Pelladium. Outside of school she enjoys working, reading, and spending time with her friends.        

Comments (0)

All Pelladium Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *