Franklin Teacher Wins $100K From Harbor Freight
By Josh Troy
Kristie Jones, a high school construction and carpentry teacher at Franklin County Career and Technical Center, was named a $100,000 grand prize winner of the 2022 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.
A total of $70,000 of the grand prize money is designated to Franklin County’s construction and carpentry program. Jones won the other $30,000 for herself.
Jones was a finalist for the 2021 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence. She is also on the Teacher Advisory Council for Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and is one of three teachers in the nation on the Board of Directors for DonorsChoose .org.
Jones, a Smithdale native, McCall Creek resident and 1994 Parklane Academy graduate, is a 25-year educator in the Franklin County School District.
“I’m a career teacher,” she said. “I’ve taught all of my life. That’s what I went to school to do.”
Jones taught special education her first 22 years in the district.
“I wanted to help students who had special needs be able to develop skills, get out and be productive members of society,” she said.
Jones briefly taught science, but also has a business called The Carpenter’s Daughter doing mostly artistic woodworking. She applied to be a construction and carpentry teacher in the district several years ago.
“I just told them if it ever comes open, just remember me, I’d be interested in taking it,” she said. “When the position did come open, they did remember me.
“They wanted a non-traditional teacher to open this program back up. It had been closed for a while.”
When the district brought the construction and carpentry program back three years ago, Jones got the opportunity to teach the course. She became certified through the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation.
Jones’ classes range from 7 to 10 students.
“I really get to spend quality time with my students and I also have my students for two years, so I really get to know them,” she said.
U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., attended the ceremony when Jones was recognized Tuesday.
“I am so proud of Kristie and her devotion to the students she instructs,” Hyde-Smith said in a press release. “I hope Kristie’s excellent work and dedication will shed more light on skilled trades and the opportunities they offer to change lives and build careers, not just in Southwest Mississippi but across the state.”
Jones said she uses teaching as an opportunity to give back to others. She said all of her students belong to the program called Bulldog Beds, named after Franklin County’s mascot.
“Through local pastors and Child Protective Services and just word of mouth in the community, if there is a child in need of a bed, my students build beds,” she said.
Jones said the Bulldog Beds partnered with other organizations build seven beds for a family that did not have any.
“To be able to not only teach my students skills, but to be able to give back in that program is just so important,” she said.
Jones plans to give back with her grand prize money as well.
The $70,000 designated to the construction and carpentry program will be used for physical improvements.
“I have some upgrades that need to be made in my shop with the electrical and air filtration system,” she said. “I’m going to use some of it for competitions and then purchasing lumber. Of course, I’m going to save a lot of it for future needs.”
Jones will donate 10% of the $30,000 designated to her to First Baptist Church in Bude, where she is a member.
“As a Christian, the Lord has blessed me tremendously,” she said. “I wouldn’t have this prize, I wouldn’t have this job, I would have the life I live without the blessings I get from Him. To give back to His ministry is exactly what I’m going to do with some of that money.
“After I tithe and give back to the Lord, I will make a few home improvements and put it in savings.”