By Ella Rucker

I’m so proud to present a fellow Ohioan in today’s Life Lessons. Cheryl Conway Jones and I went to the same high school and we recently reconnected on Facebook. She became someone I truly look up to because she is in a 5K it seems like once a month. If you have a race, Cheryl is running in it.  Her boot camping and training regimen along with her rise to power as a principal are truly inspiring and makes her a great candidate to share her Life Lessons.  Of course, we’d like you to join in the fun by dropping us a line, too!  We’ll get the questions to you right away.

Are you happy at the moment?

I am very fulfilled at the moment. I love life and everything about it. I have been blessed with a wonderful husband and outstanding support system with a strong family and friends. I find happiness in every experience daily.

If you could go back and say anything to your 16-year-old self now – what would it be?

I would tell myself that I can do anything and that although obstacles may come, that I should just continue to push through them. I’d tell myself that nothing can stop me and to keep my eyes focused and not get off track. I was extremely focused at 16 but lacked some self-assurance issues and if anything I would just tell my 16-year-old self to continue to build my relationship with God, family, and friends. I have some regrets in not pursuing running – athletics and building more relationships with friends (I was closed to building new relationships due to some trust issues with young girls and the drama that would unfold).

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned this year?

I have truly learned this last year that health is so important. My family has some history of diabetes, kidney failure, high blood pressure, cholesterol issues, etc. and that really made me want to show others in my family that we could change our history. I began to have a passion for fitness especially running and boot-camping. It started out as a venture to just lose weight but has been way more. It’s mental and a part of my daily regimen. I have found fitness to be an art form. I must say that I have changed my diet as well; without making changes in my diet I don’t think I would have seen the results as quickly. You cannot eat crazy and expect to have positive health. You are what you eat and sugar is bad!

What do you most want to achieve in the next 12 months?

I would like to ultimately enter a fitness competition. I am not there but look forward to training and preparing for this goal. I would also like to run and train for a full marathon. I love running and working out. It makes me feel great. The motivation that I receive at Body Image Fitness is amazing – the fellow boot campers are supportive and very encouraging to me.

What’s your secret to happiness?

I believe first and foremost that God has shaped my life. I give all praises for God’s gifts in allowing me to be able to educate young minds and to continue my love and passion for fitness.  I am always looking for ways to help others, I really enjoy helping the elderly as well. Happiness for me is within, I don’t compare myself to others but I have a strong support base in my family. I am truly blessed but really don’t have a secret just believe that when you are striving to do your best that all things come to those who wait.

What one ritual or practice keeps you grounded?

I pray a lot. I really try to think more now than ever about my response to others because I truly believe that your response can either motivate or discourage others. I want to be known for motivating others and focus on positive solutions even during difficult moments. I am definitely an optimist and believe that your thinking affects the outcome.

What’s your biggest regret?

I don’t wallow in regret. But just wish I continued on in terminal degree program in educational leadership. I faced some challenges when applying to doctorate programs back when I first started teaching because of my limited educational experiences. But I don’t regret trying but wish I would have continued my schooling and pushed through those obstacles.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve taught your kid(s)?

I don’t have kids but if I did I would continue to encourage them to maintain their originality and to pursue their passions.

What bad habit would you most like to change about yourself?

I am critical of myself at times and although I am very confident, I need to make sure that I don’t over analyze situations. I like a good challenge but then I sometimes get stressed about how things will go.

Aside from motherhood and marriage what are you most proud of in your life?

I am proud of my commitment to educating elementary children (and the support I have received through my mentors, friends, and family) and my zest for improving my health (thank you so much to Jackie Richardson, owner of Body Image Fitness in Columbus and Chicago) which has been a vessel to my staff, students, friends and family so that they too know that through my weight loss and fitness goals that they can do it too.

When were you happiest?

I have been so blessed. I was the happiest teaching at Meadowdale Elementary School and working under my mentor, Barbara Goins. Mrs. Goins made me yearn to become an elementary administrator. I do love serving as Principal of Liberty Elementary School (since 2002) but my happiest moments still remain as a teacher.

What ten words best describe you?

Leader, compassionate, goal oriented, kind, caring, visionary, honest, trustworthy, committed, and resilient.

Cheryl Conway Jones currently serves as principal of Liberty Elementary School. She graduated from Wright State University (WSU) in 1996 and immediately enrolled at The University of Dayton (UD) in 1996 where she enjoyed the graduate program in elementary education.  She is currently in boot camp training at Body Image Fitness in Columbus, Ohio.  She has lost 30 pounds and can be found as the feature on their website.