LHS loses 36-year teacher
By Nancy Gutierrez
In 1968, Lindsay High School had very few trees, no portable classrooms and just 450 students on campus.
That's what Shirley Jones, a health and physical education teacher, remembers when she thinks about the first year she began teaching at LHS.
"The campus was very different physically," she said. "It's two times as big now."
That wasn't the only difference. When Jones first came to LHS students were required to take physical education all four years, there were four teachers teaching the separated boys and girls PE classes and there were no Title IX requirements.
Title IX, the federal legislation that requires parity between men’s and women's athletics at educational institutions, was enacted in 1972. As a P.E. teacher Jones was at the forefront of the movement to implement girls sports into school activities.
"What we had initially was the Girls Athletic Association (GAA)," she said. "All the girls in the [P.E.] classes participated and different schools would hold play days. The emphasis was on camaraderie and playing, not winning like today."
But that changed once Title IX was enacted. Jones said she and Athletic Director Don Perales worked to form girls teams that would be affiliated with the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF). She said their main obstacle was money and getting enough girls who knew how to play the sports to form a team. The very first team was in basketball followed by volleyball.
"We were literally starting from scratch," Jones said. "The uniforms were pretty ragged too. The first uniforms for the volleyball team, the girls had to make their own."
Jones said she bought material for each of the girls and a pattern for them to follow at home. The numbers were later silk screened on to their homemade jerseys. Jones remembers most of the players by name from these inaugural teams.
"We weren't really competitive but we had a lot of good athletes," she said. "Our first basketball team called themselves the Charlie Brown team because we weren't really good."
The team nicknamed their coach Woodstock due to her below average height. Though the first team struggled, Jones said two years later the LHS women's basketball team made it to the playoffs.
"We had a phenomenal player, Kim Kesling," she recalls. "We went to Hanford for the playoffs and in those days the small schools played the big schools. We played right along with them until the second half. In the third quarter Kim was fouled out and the whole gym, their side and our side gave her a standing ovation because she was so good."
Jones has countless memories of past players who had made an impression on her through the years. Jones coached volleyball for 15 years, basketball for eight years, and softball for eight years. She also dabbled in swimming and diving as an assistant coach but said they weren't her strong suit.
"My family died laughing when they heard that because I wasn't any good at swimming," she said. "I learned that you can train the eye to look for things."
What she may not realize is that she made just as big of an impression on the students as they made on her. During the interview with Jones several students and teachers stopped to talk to Jones, thank her for her time spent at LHS and wish her well. This was Jones' last year as a LHS employee, after 36 years she is retiring.
"LHS is losing a teacher who takes time to talk to students who have problems," Jacob Chavez said. Chavez was in one of Jones' classes, like most of the student at LHS. In 1989 Jones stopped coaching and started teaching health classes in addition to PE.
"I minored in health in college and it seemed like a natural seg-way," she said. "I felt more of a connection with the students. We could talk about more issues that so many kids deal with today."
Jones taught units on managing stress, communicating with parents, and serious issues like teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
"Kids need to be aware of the risk factors," she said. "That is one reason I hate walking away from these classes."
Jones said she will also hate walking away from the students.
"The most rewarding thing is seeing so many people. I run in to old students all the time," she said. "I ran into students at Grants Grove and at the coast. Each year each class has its own personality even the classroom begins to develop a personality. By the end of the semester they are a cohesive unit. I hated seeing kids go."
Now Jones will be the one to leave. She said she will probably do some traveling and work on her yard. But she is staying in Lindsay.
"I know I'll miss the kids so I'll probably substitute. I enjoy being around them they make me feel younger. I really want to thank the community of Lindsay for the support. It's been a good community to live and work in. I've enjoyed my 36 years here and I don't plan on moving."