Dr. Deja L. Jones is a trailblazing educator and advocate dedicated to empowering Black children through high-quality education and nature-based experiences. As the Founder and Head of School at Honeypot Montessori in Newark, NJ, she has tirelessly worked to bridge the gap between education and nature for her community. Deja's academic journey led her to earn a Ph.D. from Saybrook University's Transformative Social Change department, specializing in Early Childhood Education Sociology. With a decade of experience in the field, she has worn many hats, including case management, program coordination, curriculum design, and classroom teaching, collaborating with renowned organizations such as FoodCorps, Newark Public Schools, KIPP New Jersey, and more.
Before diving into education, Deja made her mark in the media industry, contributing as a digital content writer for prominent platforms like the Huffington Post's Black Voices, Madame Noire, Shape Magazine, and many others. Her media background taught her the power of impactful storytelling, a lesson she has carried into her educational endeavors. Deja's impact extends beyond the classroom; she was recognized for her exceptional work as the Founder of #YouOkSis, a women's wellness group addressing workplace oppression for women of color. Her dedication earned her a nomination for the NJ 30 Under 30 Ubuntu Award in Community Wellness and Support.
She holds a B.A. in Journalism & Media Studies from Rutgers University-Newark and an M.Ed. in Teaching & Learning Leadership from Liberty University, blending her passion for media and education seamlessly. Deja's research focuses on critical issues, including environmental racism in early childhood development, building resilience in Black youth through environmental education, and promoting sustainability in urban communities like Newark. She is an active member of the NYC Early Childhood Research Network and has conducted research with Bank Street's Straus Center for Young Children and Families, addressing disparities in preschool programs. Deja's dedication to driving change and sharing her insights has led her to speak at numerous conferences, including SXSW EDU, EdFest, Rutgers-Newark Urban Education conference, and Natural Start Alliance Early Childhood conference. In 2019, she delivered a keynote address at a Rutgers-sponsored TEDTalk.
In 2020, Deja's impactful work with Curate Your Life (2017-2020), a youth initiative addressing the educational and mental health needs of Black teen girls, earned her the Butterfly Dreamz, Inc. Community Changemaker Award. She was also appointed as a United State of Women Ambassador, receiving recognition from Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman for her commitment to empowering teen girls. Transitioning from her role as a kindergarten teacher at KIPP schools, Deja embarked on a journey to reform school disciplinary policies, with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion for Black students. Her efforts led to recognition from the Abolitionist Teaching Network in 2022 for her abolitionist approaches to education. In 2021, Deja received the prestigious Saybrook University's Rollo May Scholarship Award, acknowledging her groundbreaking research connecting environmental wellness and child development in early childhood. The following year, she was honored with the Vela Education Entrepreneur Award for her tireless dedication to education justice and equity, a testament to her work laying the foundation for Honeypot Montessori.
Southwest Institute for Montessori Studies
Primary 3-6 Diploma
Ph.D Transformative Social Change
CITI:Collaborative Institutional Research Training (2022)
University of Pennsylvania
UNICEF Certification in Social Norms & Social Change
M.Ed. Teaching and Learning Leadership and Administration
B.A. Journalism & Media Studies
The Ecopsychology of Black Children in Early Childhood Education: this candidacy study uses Urie Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory to illustrate how Black children develop an ecological sense based on their understanding of nature and community.