My Why - Tenea Jones: A Seat at the Table

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Tenea Jones, Assistant Principal at TAF@Saghalie 6-12, Federal Way Public Schools

Getting a seat at the table, putting youth voices first

Tenea Jones started picturing her future as an educator in fourth grade, the first time she had a Black teacher. He was a dynamo who made every lesson fun and interactive. Having someone who looked like her fostered a sense of connection and belonging for Tenea.

“It’s always weird to walk into a space and you’re automatically the other. Even if he was the only other Black person in the room, it was a reassurance thing. I have at least one person who can understand and listen simply because of who I am and who they are.”

Tenea’s mom, who raised three kids on her own, used to try to talk her out of pursuing teaching as a career. She didn’t want her daughter to have to worry about paying the bills. She wanted Tenea to live comfortably, without struggle. 

That’s how Tenea does live today, eight years into her career as an educator. She started out as a paraeducator, later taught geometry, then P.E., before moving up to administration.

“I wanted a seat at the decision-making table ... to be the person asking why and how is that equitable. What about the Black and Brown kids? I always try to put their voices at the forefront.”

“I was the first person in my family to go to college. So education to me is power. It’s allowed me to grow and see and do better than what I knew or experienced.”

— Tenea Jones, Assistant Principal, TAF@Saghalie, Federal Way Public Schools

Learn more about Tenea’s pathway from para to teacher to principal.

Alternative routes to teacher certification

The are four types of alternative routes to teacher certification, like the path that Tenea took.

Visit to learn more about and compare different pathways to becoming an educator.

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