By Brandon Martin
On Aug. 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified and women all across the country gained the right to vote. After almost a century of protest, American women could now, not only voice who they wanted as their representatives, but also run for office themselves.
This year marks the centennial of women’s suffrage and over those 100 years, many women have been elected to hold public office. In Martinsville-Henry County, women currently hold nine of the 23 total seats between the collective school boards and governing bodies.
Of each of these groups, the Martinsville City Public School (MCPS) Board is the only one that is majority female.
Among their ranks is Assistant Principal at McMichael High School and plus-size fashion blogger Tonya Jones, M.Ed.
Jones, who said she was shy growing up, has made a life out of inspiring women and children through education and her work with plus-size brands like Eloquii and Lane Bryant.
“I didn’t do a lot of talking and was very quiet for the most part,” she said. “But as I grew older, went away to college and began to network with others, I quickly got out of my shyness.”
She credits her love for travel, hosting group trips as a way to “strike up conversations and relieve my shyness.”
As she worked through this obstacle in her adolescence, she drew on the strength of her mother for inspiration.
“My mother was and still remain my inspiration,” she said. “As a single parent I would see her work two and sometimes three jobs to care and provide for me. I would see her go without so that I could have and I would witness her constant support cheering me on and through every victory, trial and life challenge.”
Jones, a Martinsville native, didn’t initially find herself in education after graduating from Martinsville High School in 1987.
She attended St. Paul’s College where she earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration with a minor in Management and Accounting. Following graduation, Jones spent 10 years for the now-VF Corporation, an apparel and footwear company. The company changed names a few times from Bassett Walker to Imagewear and then to VF Knitwear before outsourcing overseas.
This career-redefining moment pushed Jones to gain her teaching certificate from Averett University before spending three years teaching middle school in Danville and six more years teaching high school in Guilford County.
While teaching, Jones pursued education herself and obtained a Masters of Arts in Education from the University of Phoenix in 2009. She took over her current role as Assistant Principal of Rockingham County Schools, in North Carolina in 2012, and is pursuing her Doctorate in Education.
She has received many educational awards such as Target Educator of Year, FBLA Adviser of the Year and she was nominated as Teacher of the Year for four consecutive years. Most recently, Jones was named the 2017-2018 Rockingham County Schools Assistant Principal of the Year in addition to receiving the ACHI Woman of Achievement Award in 2017 and the Clyde Williams NAACP Community Award in 2017.
Along with her role in the schools, Jones has worked to serve the community through her membership with Mount Zion Baptist Church of Greensboro and in her capacity at the Upsilon Delta Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.
Jones’ experiences serving with the church and sorority may have shaped her idea of leadership.
“Leadership means servant,” she said. “In order to lead others you must first learn to serve others. Leadership means impacting lives, circumstances, situations and people for the better so that they are able to lead and guide others. Leadership also means having the abilities to empower others whether it’s with skills, knowledge, support or mentorship.”
Even though the Martinsville School Board is served by majority female leaders, Jones gave possibly the best outlook on how far the women’s suffrage movement has come.
“In all honestly having a majority female board never crossed my mind,” she said. “When I look across the board, I see strong individuals working hard to ensure the success and achievement of every child in the school system.”