Leona Bishop | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Leona Bishop


Leona Bishop, 37, will be the first to tell you: Where she started is nowhere near where she is today. However, where she is today is exactly where she needs to be.

Growing up in Cleveland, Miss., as the baby sister to 10 siblings, Bishop was starstruck early in life and dreamed of being on stage; her favorite classes in school revolved around acting and drama. Following her educational path to Tougaloo College brought her to Jackson, and a loving husband and family keep her here.

Today, you can find Bishop at Poindexter Elementary School as a professional school counselor for pre-kindergarten to fifth grade. Bishop teaches classes to students, with topics ranging from self-esteem building to stress management.

When not teaching, Bishop counsels adolescents and some adults at her Jackson private practice, Count It All Joy Counseling Services, focusing on anger management and conflict resolution. By challenging students to think about the consequences of their actions, she hopes to deter students who are at risk for dropping out of school.

"We all have options. You have to realize the consequences for your actions, and try to work on alternatives. Let's work on the possible scenarios: how are you going to provide for yourself?" she tells at-risk students.

Receiving the honor of winning the 2009 Outstanding Educator Award by the Jackson Parents for Public Schools and the Community Foundation on Sept. 2, Bishop says that two necessary qualities for her position are flexibility and excellent interpersonal skills. Her interest and positive effect on her students helped her win the recognition. She jokingly refuses to name her own favorite teacher for fear of retribution from the teaching staff at Cleveland High, but she will say that she appreciates everyone's contribution there.

Her one piece of advice to today's educators? "Let them know you really care." An ideal school for her would be a place where children want to go to learn, and a place where teachers want to be. Bishop feels the educational standards in America would vastly improve if the basic needs of children were met. She drives this notion home by saying, with an unwavering stare: "If they are worrying about where their next meal is coming from, they can't hear you."

Even after retiring from teaching, which is many years away, Bishop plans to continue helping children by traveling as a keynote speaker and making educational videos. She always has a plan, stating that her strong faith and sense of spirituality drives everything she does in life.

"You can't go through life saying 'woe is me'; you have to take what you're given and make the best of it. Count it all joy," she says.

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