Jennifer Elizabeth Jones knew exactly how to get her sixth graders to devour the often unpalatable subject of science.
To teach laboratory procedure to her class at Woodbury Junior-Senior High School, she instructed the students to write down every step required to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She then followed their directions to a T, including slathering PB&J on her hand because someone failed to mention the bread.
They laughed, and learned.
Reminiscences of a fun-loving, creatively effective teacher began filling a post-it wall at the school on Wednesday, Dec. 19. Ms. Jones, 39, of Pitman, died that day from complications of cancer at her parents' home in Mickleton.
In 1996, at the close of her first year of teaching, she wrote in a diary: "Some days I can't believe I get paid to do this job. It's like I feel most alive when I'm in front of a class. . . . I hope I always feel about teaching the way I do right now."
Ms. Jones shared pedagogical DNA with her father and two of her three brothers. One, Joseph, became superintendent of the Woodbury public schools during her tenure there. He is likely to read her fledgling reflections at her funeral service, he said, for they showed how "she loved her job from the start. And she did it justice."
Driven by the desire to teach since she was a teenager, Ms. Jones graduated from Kingsway Regional High School in Woolwich Township in 1991 and earned a bachelor's degree in psychology with a minor in elementary education from the University of Richmond in 1995.
She sought a teaching position in the early elementary grades, but when none materialized, she took what was offered: sixth grade in the small Woodbury system, where her father taught high school business. She was "a little reluctant" to cross the line into junior high, her brother said. But sixth grade proved a perfect match - one that lasted 16 years and brought her Woodbury teacher of the year honors.
As junior high instruction became increasingly differentiated by subject, Ms. Jones gravitated toward science. She was known for hands-on experiments that stretched the preadolescent attention span well beyond its known limits - like learning about lab safety by dissecting chocolate chip cookies.
At the conclusion of every year, she also had her students write letters to themselves, which she then carefully packed away. She personally returned the sealed envelopes to them as graduating seniors.
During the summers, she made her rounds of office supply stores, shopping the sales and accumulating a mountain of materials for the coming school year. In the time left over, she cared for her two rescue dogs, communed with book club friends, gardened, baked, and worked on her vintage Pitman Grove home.
In addition to her brother, she is survived by her parents, Joseph and Martha; two brothers; a sister; and nine nieces and nephews.
A viewing will be from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21, and 8 to 9 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 22, at McGuinness Funeral Home, 34 Hunter St., Woodbury. A Funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. at St. Michael's Church, 313 Memorial Ave., Gibbstown, with interment at Eglington Cemetery, Clarksboro.
Memorial donations may be made to Woodbury Junior-Senior High School, Jennifer E. Jones Scholarship Account, 25 N. Broad St., Woodbury, N.J. 08096, set up to recognize Woodbury graduates planning to enter elementary education.