Alumna of the Year - Meridy Lyle Jones '76




Trying to analyze the overall impact that Meridy Lyle Jones has had on UMS-Wright is a task that is alternately complex and simple. The complexity arises from the fact that she has done so much as a JTW student and alumna, as a JTW teacher, and as a UMS-Wright teacher, coach, and counselor-administrator. However, Meridy’s own words provide clarity : “ I think all my memorable experiences revolve around the feeling of family at JTW. I can’t narrow it down to one experience because each day was a new experience.” This description of her days as a JTW student and teacher helps explain how she has been able to build such strong, lasting relationships with her colleagues, players, and students throughout her career. Her words also reveal a philosophy of life built upon a true joy for living and a view of life as a series of opportunities and adventures. Meridy “Lyle” was an energetic and engaged student at Julius T. Wright who was outstanding academically and was influential as a leader. She served on the Honor Council, Student Council, Academic Advisory Council, and yearbook staff. Her maturity enabled her to function effectively as a teacher assistant while still a student, and her impressive personality and character led to her selection as Mobile’s Azalea Trail Queen. Thankfully, this remarkable lady chose to use her talents as a professional educator and graduated from the University of Alabama with a B.S. in Elementary Education and a concentration in English and French. She taught 5th and 6th grades at JTW and UMS-Wright and earned a Master’s of Education from the University of South Alabama before also completing certification as a guidance counselor. As a young yet experienced teacher when UMS and JTW merged in 1988, Meridy’s most fulfilling and influential years were to be in the future. Her effectiveness as a teacher was a blessing for the preteens she would teach during the early years of the merger. Her positive teaching style and limitless energy were the perfect match with the intellectual, emotional, and physical developmental levels of 5th and 6th graders. Before long the school’s administrative staff recognized her potential as a counselor and as a leader. First as a middle school counselor and next as a high school counselor, Meridy has served as a mentor and guide for countless students during UMS-Wright’s period of expansion. Her respect for standards and commitment to personal responsibility, combined with her innate empathy and professional skill, have enabled her to become the perfect guidance counselor for an ambitious preparatory school. Both students and colleagues have been affected for the better because of her influence. Meridy has been an exceptional influence on both the UMS-Wright guidance counseling program and the UMS-Wright Athletic Department. She has helped create an exemplary staff of talented counselors, and these colleagues have helped students and teachers overcome the numerous obstacles that can hinder teaching and learning in today’s classrooms. Circumstances that less talented and less dedicated counselors would have considered insurmountable are viewed as opportunities to help a student reach his or her full potential by using creativity and extra effort. As UMS-Wright’s Womens’ Tennis Coach, Meridy’s accomplishments are legendary throughout Alabama’s high school athletics. Her teams have won a total of 14 state championships in three different competitive divisions with much larger schools in almost all instances. Currently her teams have won a state-record 11 consecutive state championships with the last one being in the 6A division! As a teacher, counselor, and coach; Meridy makes everyone around her better. She is a gifted motivator who has blessed generations of JTW and UMS-Wright students as well as their families. A common observation about Meridy from current and past students is that she seems more invested in their success and well being than the regular educator would be. This very likely relates to belief that she holds regarding her students and colleagues to be her family. Total investment in their children motivates parents to make any sacrifice or to go to any lengths for their children’s benefit. Since 1980, Meridy Lyle Jones has viewed her students as her children. Even graduates feel this because just like a parent, she does not divest herself of these student- children just because they have graduated from high school. She continues to be a special connection for alumni whose lives she has touched. Because of her, alumni want their children to attend UMS-Wright. One final quote that Meridy uses often explains why she is such a gifted and influential educator. Most who read this article have probably heard her say this: “Find a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life.” Without question, Meridy loves her job. She loves her students. She loves her colleagues. Finally and most certainly, they all love her in return.


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