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Valerie Jones says she never expected to be in an administrative role as an educator, but is looking ahead to the future in hopes she can continue making a positive impact on students' lives.

The former Southeastern High School teacher now serves as department chair of the teacher education program at Ohio Christian University, where she has been employed since last July, and has been instrumental in improving the department as a whole. Jones, who is working on her doctorate degree at Marshall University, resides on a farm just outside of Chillicothe with her husband.

Jones said it was always her dream to teach in higher education,  so she applied and later accepted a position as a professor at OCU, which also named her as department chair. ones said she enjoys her dual role as an educator while being able to help shape the future of the department, which plans to offer graduate-level courses this summer.

"Never did I ever think I would be in an administrative role, but I'm loving it because I get the best of both worlds," Jones said. "I get to teach classes and teach future educators, but I also get to make decisions and design programs that will change the university, hopefully, for the better that will keep us going, which is wonderful."

She has spent the last four months at OCU working to develop the Adolescence to Adult program, formerly known as secondary education, and noted officials are working with the state to develop courses and get an academic major in place. Jones hopes the university will be able to offer a bachelor of science degree program in adolescence to young adult education sometime next year.

"We are committed and I really feel like we're going to have no issues with it and we have such a good program base here that we're just building off that," she said.

The department was awarded a seven-year accreditation from the Teacher Education Accreditation Council, a distinction that Jones said she is particularly proud of since most universities typically get a two- or five-year accreditation for teacher education programs.

"That's just a testament to the leadership that was here before me, for sure, and all the hard work that they did," she said.

Jones said her transition from being an educator at Southeastern to her work at OCU has been a positive one so far.

"It's been different and higher education versus public school is such a different world in that there's all these new acronyms you have to learn, there's all these different hoops you have to jump through to do the things you want and that's just higher education and I had to learn that quickly," Jones said. "I will tell you the transition, I feel, has been extremely smooth because of the staff here. I will tell you that my provost, Dr. Hank Kelly, has been phenomenal in keeping in touch with me and making sure I have what I need to do my job well, and he's been phenomenal."

She also credited her assistant within the department, Rachel Stone, with keeping things running.

"She is the glue that holds our department together," Jones said. "She knows it all, she does it all, she's phenomenal, she's just amazing and she's been a help to me so much just helping me (with) all the ins-and-outs of higher ed."

Jones also pointed to the support she has received from her fellow colleagues at OCU, saying they have also been helpful as well.

"I couldn't ask for a better place to work," she said. "I truly feel like God called me here and I am definitely in the place where I need to be."

She offered some advice to students entering the education field, citing her own 16 years as a teacher at Southeastern.

"It's a lot of hard work, but the end result is amazing and that's what you have to keep working toward," Jones said.

For now, Jones will continue shaping her department as the university presses forward.

"I really feel like this is a great place to be," she said. "It's the people, it's the growth and it's the program and it's just everything."

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