Helena Jones

This obituary was submitted to The Alumni Office by her husband Alan Jones.

Helena (Joyce) Jones (Teaching 1960) (d.2016)

Helena (Joyce) Jones died peacefully on April 15, 2016 at age 75 after a prolonged challenge from cancer. Helena was a beloved teacher and tutor at San Francisco Community School, Children's Circle Center, and Marin Horizon School. She is especially remembered by her students for teaching poetry and writing as well as for the love and care she brought to each student.

Born Sandra Helen Green in London in 1940, she grew up in central London with her mother Phoebe and her step father Stanley Joyce and assumed the name Helena Joyce. She attended Camden School and Central School of Speech and Drama where she followed the teaching curriculum. Although she moved to the U.S. before completing her degree, her years at Central nurtured both her free and loving spirit and her knowledge of teaching.  There she shared a life-long interest in poetry with Gerard Benson and many others.

She moved to California with her parents in 1961 and soon found herself in San Francisco where she married James Cunning, a talented artist. They had a son, Jason, in 1966.

In the 1970s she began her teaching career in various schools. At San Francisco Community School she worked with many creative experienced teachers and received full-emersion training in giving attention to individual students in the classroom setting. Remarkably some of the students from those days still remember her fondly.

Here is a post on Facebook from one of them: "So with each person I've known I hope to bring the best of them--I hope to bring the kind gentleness you shared with me as a bright eyed kindergartener in the halls of Community School.  Sometimes I tell my life with the half-full version and sometimes it's with the half-empty but in every version someone says weren't you just so lucky to have Helena in that hallway.  Indeed I was and am.  Thank you!"

She moved to Mill Valley in 1983 and began full time classroom teaching at Children's Circle Center, a private elementary school with small classrooms and a wide mix of students.  There she helped create a curriculum which was not only rigorous academically but rich in art, music, poetry, and writing.  Her unique talent was to find a way to give special attention to the needs of each individual student.

Here is a remembrance from one young woman who had learning difficulties: "Yesterday evening my favorite teacher died.  It was not sudden, nevertheless I find myself overcome.  You see she wasn't just a teacher or a favorite teacher for me.  She was the first adult who I ever felt understood me wholly.  She was the first person who looked at me not as a damaged little kid but as a young person with so much potential...."

Here is another from a young man who coaches sports, is becoming a chaplain, and still writes poetry: "Helena, I don't know how, though I can guess, there always seemed to be more love around in class when you were there.  Tricky thing was we couldn't see where it was coming from: your arms, or face, or clothes; from your slow calm voice, or from your smile.  Who knows, but it was always there, always felt, and it still is.  Thank you Helena, it always will be.  So much love to you."

Helena and Alan Jones, an architect, were married in 1988 and have lived in their Mill Valley home since. She is survived by her husband Alan and her son Jason Benjamin Cunning.

Some say that love can't be taught.  Helena may well have proven them wrong.  Here is a link to an online obit that has a video about her life. http://www.legacy.com/EnhancedObit/EnhancedObit.aspx?PersonId=179978571

--Alan Jones