Teachers are Heroes: Steven Jones is an advocate for veterans at SHS
Published on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022
In the 17 years of his teaching career, Steven Jones has gone above and beyond in making sure his students understand their country’s history.
Jones is a social studies teacher and football coach at Stratford High, and is known by many at the school as “Coach Jones”. He is very active in finding ways to pay tribute to the nation’s veterans, all while tying it into his lessons and instilling a sense of patriotic pride in his students.
Jones wants his students to know that their teachers care about them, and that it is important for them to know what veterans went through to give them the freedoms they have today. Communicating that to the students starts with building relationships with them.
“You have to establish that you care about them and respect them,” he said. “We’re always trying to build productive citizens that appreciate the freedom and opportunity they have in this country.”
Jones is a product of Berkeley County School District, graduating from Hanahan High in 1989. He was in the U.S. Air Force as an airman working on the Stealth Bomber in the mid-1990s but pulled out when he was diagnosed with cancer, a battle he defeated after three major surgeries and four rounds of chemotherapy.
When he beat cancer, Jones had to figure out his next move, and decided to go back to school and follow the education track. Jones studied history and secondary education at the College of Charleston, and then later got his Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from Southern Wesleyan University. During his time in college, Jones worked for the Medal of Honor Society on the USS Yorktown as part of a work study program.
He started his teaching career at Stratford High in 2005, and has been there ever since. He is the defensive coordinator of the school’s B team. He currently teaches civics, and he integrates a lot of American history, citizenship and Medal of Honor information into his lessons.
For the past decade, Jones has been supported by JROTC instructor Col. Samuel Blanton in finding ways to honor veterans – all while making those educational connections for his students.
“To me, it’s all about honoring veterans – I’m just a conduit for that,” he said.
Their efforts have not gone unnoticed; in 2020, Jones was named the state high school Teacher of the Year by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) – an honor also known as the National Citizenship Education Teacher Award. Jones received the award after being nominated by Blanton.
Last April, Jones and Blanton organized an event that brought James Everett Livingston, a retired United States Marine major general, Vietnam War veteran and Medal of Honor recipient, to the school to speak with students about his years of service and the importance of American freedom (read original story).
“I’ve got a special place in my heart for Vietnam veterans – they’re an important part of our country’s history,” he said.
Jones enjoys writing and most recently penned a poem entitled “Ode to the Vietnam Veteran” (see below). He presented a copy of his poem to English teacher Deb Baldino right before Veterans Day on Nov. 10; Baldino’s husband was a Vietnam veteran who passed away a year ago.
“It was emotional and it was heartfelt and her (students) – they were just so reverent; you could’ve heard a pin drop,” he said. “I think Mr. Baldino was shining down on us from Heaven when all of that occurred. It was pretty amazing.”
Jones went on to present the poem a few days later to fellow social studies teacher Melissa Brown in honor of her late father, another Vietnam veteran.
“It’s something I can leave behind, and hopefully people will realize how important…the Vietnam veteran was to their country,” he said.
Jones had the opportunity to read his poem over the Veterans Day weekend to a veterans’ radio station in New Jersey, and was told the station has a combined audience that reaches seven million listeners. Jones read it again for a special Veterans Sunday Service at Trident Baptist Church in Goose Creek on Nov. 13.
Right after that church service, Jones headed out to Patriots Point in Mt. Pleasant, accompanied by one of his sons, to visit the Vietnam Experience exhibit. This is an immersive experience that brings the history of the war to life with a two and a half-acre exhibit that includes a dozen components that simulate life during wartime, such as a mess hall, a fire control bunker, three Vietnam-era helicopters, and a river patrol boat dedicated to Medal of Honor recipient James Elliot Williams.
“Some Vietnam veterans actually created it (the exhibit), and it has a lot of lifelike stuff that was over there – like different types of military equipment and how they lived…and so forth. It’s pretty amazing,” Jones said.
Jones has a handful of informative panels that were originally aboard the USS Yorktown; the panels feature the faces of Medal of Honor recipients. Jones acquired the panels at an auction for $20 apiece, and now the panels cover the walls of his classroom.
Just outside of his classroom is a gallery that went on display for Livingston’s April visit to the school; the school hung up posters of every single Medal of Honor recipient, as well as QR codes so attendees could look up each recipient’s story – Livingston got to see his own portrait while he toured the gallery.
“You could see on his face the emotion when he saw himself and you knew that had to take him back to Vietnam,” Jones said.
Jones also builds curriculum based off the television show, “Timeless,” which can be found on Hulu. The premise of the show features a team that attempts to stop a mysterious organization from changing the course of history through time travel. The school has a display in one of the hallways dedicated to the show and the lessons. Jones said these lessons are very popular with his students.
When he teaches his students about their nation’s history, the good and the bad, Jones tries to frame everything in the context that his students are still fortunate to be in America. He alluded to when Livingston spoke to Stratford High students and told them that there are people all over the world who “would trade places with you in a second.”
Jones enjoys his role as a classroom teacher and plans to stay in his position until retirement.
“This is the front lines,” he said. “I like working with kids. I like trying to make a difference – it’s a tough job, as you know.”
Jones is a Hanahan resident. He is married to Debbie Jones, an assistant in special services at Hanahan High. They have two sons, a 12-year-old and a 15-year-old, who attend Hanahan’s high and middle schools.
Jones enjoys reading and writing and has an interest in politics. He likes learning about Charleston’s history and enjoys participating in downtown walking tours.
He has a blatant love for people and his country, and aims to make the country better for future generations.
Listen to Steven Jones read his poem on the radio.
"Ode to a Vietnam Veteran" by Steven Jones
The war seems over, but the scars remain.
As time passes by, it lessens the pain.
But a nation needs to hear your stories loud and
Clear. Courage, valor, and brotherhood; it is
what you hold dear.
With heart and soul, you fought for our nation,
in the jungles of Vietnam, misunderstood and
A war not fought to win; Americans divided
among their kin.
The bombs and shells; they seemed to never
You answered your country’s call for service;
freedom was your cause.
You are the best of the best, brothers’ side by
A generation of Americans who fought and
God Bless the Vietnam Veteran and God Bless