Short stop lasted lifetime for Ross
Posted: October 10, 2012
The Winchester Star
BERRYVILLE — In 1964, Jim Ross was on his way to New York City to look for a job when he stopped in Charles Town, W.Va., to see family.
While there, his uncle told him that Clarke County Public Schools just over the state line in Virginia was hiring for a teaching position.
Within hours, Ross had a job as a science and physical education teacher at what was then Johnson-Williams High School in Berryville.
Forty-eight years later, the 70-year-old straight-shooting disciplinarian is still hard at work as dean at Clarke County’s Johnson-Williams Middle School — a distinction that makes him the longest-serving employee currently on the payrolls in the three local school divisions.
Sitting behind a large desk in his office on Swan Avenue, Ross is the epitome of longevity in a world where the next best thing often trumps loyalty.
“I love kids, for one,” Ross said of why he has stayed so long. “It’s nothing profound. I enjoy working with them and teaching them. I have a job I love, I do well at it, and the rewards from doing it are tremendous.”
Ross graduated from Bluefield State College in his native West Virginia with a bachelor of science degree. He’s of the old-school teaching world, where students often learn the lessons he has taught them years after they’ve moved on, and where gold stars must be earned and not given.
Principal Evan Robb has known Ross for 20 years.
“I personally admire the wisdom he’s gained from his years in education, I appreciate his friendship, and I admire his sense of humor,” he said. “He is a hard worker and a man who is very student-centered.”
LaJuan Curry, 42, a physical education instructional aid at Johnson-Williams and a former student of Ross’s, remembers him as a stickler — an inspirational teacher who was not going to bend.
“He was hardcore,” she said. “He made us [girls] dip our hands in formaldehyde just like the boys. He taught us that we could do just as much as boys. He didn’t let us off the hook.”
Now, Curry and her children affectionately call Ross “granddad,” and their pictures adorn a filing cabinet in his office.
In 1991, Ross became dean of Johnson-Williams — the first one in the Clarke County school system. He is the only remaining dean on payroll.
As the dean, he is both an advocate for and disciplinarian of students. Despite his job switch, the “hardcore” moniker has never left.
“To most kids out there in the hall, they normally see me as the boogie man,” he said. “They don’t see me as a nice, gentle father, which I am.”
He added: “When I speak, they do listen.”
Some of his former students, now parents themselves, have come up to him and told him to, “please be there for my kids.” He knows they remember him as tough but also a good man.
To him, children haven’t changed over the years, only their surroundings.
“Kids are the same now as they were 30 years ago,” he said. “We deal with the same kids, just in different situations.”
Ross is also a high school basketball official in West Virginia and has served as a head basketball coach and assistant football coach at Clarke County High School during his tenure in the division.
He also doles out goodwill as a deacon at the St. Luke Baptist Church in Berryville. A religious man, Ross never ceases to give credit where credit is due.
“I am what I am today because of the Good Lord,” he said. “If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t know what to do.”
Ross wants to reach 50 years and then retire.
“Teaching is like a poker game,” he said. “You got to know when to hold them and know when to fold them, and if you get that under your belt, you stand a chance of being a pretty good teacher.”
— Contact Rebecca Layne at email@example.com