District Life Changer

Keenan Jones is passionate about educating his students. The North Junior High language and literature teacher emulates what he wants his students to do by continually finding ways to enhance his personal knowledge — all so he can better serve his students. One Hopkins colleague said Jones is the epitome of a life-long learner.

“He has a deep love for his students and his concern for their welfare is unparalleled. We are fortunate to have him as an instructor in this district,” said Stanley Brown, educational equity and inclusion coordinator.

Student choice and student voice are a big part of Jones’ teaching philosophy. He is implementing a new classroom approach called Negotiated Curriculum in which his students have a say in how units are taught. The approach allows students to have an active role in their own education.

Jones is already making a difference inside the Hopkins community, and he’s about to play a large role in making a difference statewide. He was recently appointed to the Governor's Children’s Cabinet Advisory Council where he will help make recommendations to improve equity and outcomes for the children of Minnesota.

Proudest moment? When I taught sixth grade at Tanglen Elementary, my students took an activist stance after the Parkland shooting and took part in a walkout along with other schools across the country. The students felt like I gave them a space to use their voice to tackle an issue that is affecting our society.

What do you love most about Hopkins? One of the things I love about Hopkins is the diversity and the vast amount of resources. Being one of the few staff of color, Hopkins has always made me feel like there is a lane for me to continue to make a difference in many different capacities. I’m able to see students who look like me, as well as learn from students of many other cultures. Hopkins reflects the real world and that is such a big deal in our current state of affairs.

Crowning achievement? As we continue to see research that shows some of our black males are at times disengaged in the school process, I felt that it was time for me to do something about this issue. The idea to start a student success group came to mind and I put it into action this school year with the Literacy for Freedom group. The excitement from some of these young men when they heard I was starting a group was indescribable, and they are excited about all the possibilities.

Stats: B.A. in liberal studies, Minnesota State University, Mankato B.A. in elementary education, Augsburg University M.A. in literacy education, Hamline University