Alumni Spotlight: Dylan Jones C’15, District Data Specialist at Sunflower County Consolidated School District

Dylan Jones serves as the District Data Specialist for the Sunflower County Consolidated School District (SCCSD). In this role, Dylan is responsible for overseeing all instructional programs, district benchmarks, the gifted education program and data systems for Sunflower County. Dylan, a former member of Teach for America, taught 5th through 8th grade mathematics at Inverness Elementary School, where he implemented a school data system that predicted student performance based on formative and benchmark assessments. This data system is now utilized throughout the SCCSD and was instrumental in moving the district out of failing status.

BENEFITS OF DREW

Born and raised in NJ, Dylan chose Drew because of the small class sizes, and the short and nycTRECS (International Seminars.)  He ended up doing trips to Belgium, London, and Japan. He started as a Political Science/Spanish major but switched to Political Science/Economics after taking a Drew Freshman Seminar with former Economics professor Giandomenico Sarolli. He said, “We did a case study and after that I knew I wanted to study economics. Prof. Sarolli was a tremendous professor.”  Dylan was drawn to Political Science because he wanted to be a lawyer but he said, “Another great thing about Drew is I was able to develop strong relationships with Prof. Jennifer Kohn, Prof. Marc Tomljanovich, and Prof. Patrick McGuin. They were all mentors to me and through their courses I realized that my passion for education was stronger than my passion for law.”

Dylan was very active on campus.  He worked with the Chief Financial Officer at Drew for two years producing reports on the restricted funds portion of the University’s Endowment.  He served on the Steering Committee at Drew for two years as the Student Representative, the Senate Conduct Board, the Human Rights Committee, the Academic Standing Committee, and was Vice President of Student Government.  Dylan also did the Semester on the United Nations, the Semester on Wall Street, and a shortTRECs to Belgium and London (4 weeks) and Japan (one week in Tokyo and Kyoto.)  Dylan said, “Management was one of my specialties in Economics.  It was great to go to an entirely different country and culture to see how they operate!”

Some of Dylan’s favorite memories of Drew include the international trips and nycTRECs but Dylan also adds, “I always looked forward to Holiday Ball and I really enjoyed Senior Week at the end of the year. I just genuinely enjoyed being on campus with friends and the entire environment of Drew.”

CAREER IN EDUCATION

When did you first become interested in a career in education?

I started getting interested when I took education courses with Prof. Patrick McGuinn.  I realized that this passion for education was something that was always there my entire life but I never realized how strong it was.  When I started getting close to graduation and thinking about next steps, I started thinking about education policy or education finance, but that’s when my friend Andrew Bishop (also a Drew alum), recommended I teach before I do anything else in education. He had just done the Teach for China program and recommended that I do the Teach for America program.  I realized this was going to be an opportunity of a lifetime.  I ended up in Mississippi and I can’t imagine being anywhere or doing anything else.  This is just where I want to be.

Can you talk about your teaching experience with Teach for America? 

I taught 5th through 8th grade math at Inverness Elementary School in Mississippi for 2 years.  I was highlighted by Drew when I won Teacher of the Year my first year. Being a teacher is something you can’t plan for.  You have to be on 100 percent of the time.  That was the hardest thing for me.  You have to be ready because the students are always ready for you.  My preparation had to happen outside of the classroom.  It was challenging and overwhelming at points but incredibly rewarding.  At the end of the second year I was going to continue on, but the superintendent reached out and said there was a data position open and now I am the District Data Specialist.  I am going on my 4th year in this role.  I work part of the curriculum department for the Sunflower County Consolidated School District.

What inspired you to pursue your M.Ed?

Through Teach for America and recognizing how strong my passion was for education leadership, I was accepted into the Teach for America Delta Fellowship and was able to get my Master of Education for free.  This afforded me the opportunity to take the Administrator’s Exam so now I am a licensed Administrator for the State of Mississippi.  I can take a principal role or further my career in the central office as well.  I am getting my Education Specialist (EES.)  I wasn’t traditionally trained; I was an alternate route teacher. Now is the time to get the traditional training.  I am now fully certified.

 What do you do as District Data Specialist for Sunflower?

I am responsible for doing all of the data for the entire district.  I built an entire data program for our district so we have a way to automatically quantify all the data our students take at any given time.  I was able to take the math and the Excel I learned in my Economics classes at Drew to further my coding skills and build an entire data platform for the Sunflower County District.

How has Covid-19 affected your work?

We went out for spring break and we never came back to school.  I went to Memphis with friends and then our school was shut down.  We worked virtually for a while and after Memorial Day we came back in but now we are preparing for full time virtual school starting September 8th.

What do you think is the key to your success in the field of education?

My key is having excellent teachers, mentors and professors throughout the years mold me into the person I am today and using those experiences to call upon my passion for education and to remember what it felt like to have such good teachers, professors, and mentors.

What advice would you give Drew students who are interested in pursuing administrative or supervisory roles in education?

You have to teach at the ground level and come up.  Having experience as a teacher is a once in a lifetime experience.  It has a fundamentally profound impact on how you view education and if you want to take a leadership role in education then you should definitely teach beforehand.

FINAL QUESTIONS

What career other than your own would you like to try?

I would like to be a politician, serving as a state senator or town mayor would be enticing.

If you could travel anywhere tomorrow where would it be?

Traveling through South America!

Fun fact(s) or hobbies you’d like to share?

Read, play golf, and computer coding.

 

 

 

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