Regents' Outstanding
Teaching Awards

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Jessica D. Slade, PhD

Assistant Professor of Instruction

Department of Teacher Education

College of Education

UT El Paso

A guiding principle in Jessica Slade's life was gifted to her through the wisdom of one of her previous students: "You can make a wish, but it's not magic. People have to make it happen" (Sawyer, age 5). This guides Slade's life, and she has used this sentiment with all the students, be they toddlers, preschoolers or undergraduate teacher candidates throughout her professional career. In the beginning, armed with a bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts from the University of the Pacific, Slade realized that with her love of the arts and of young children, her heart was calling her to be a teacher. Her teaching career began in her hometown of Santa Fe, NM, where she taught young toddlers and preschoolers in schools with different pedagogical focuses. To make being the best toddler/preschool teacher happen, Slade dove head-first on her own into research of Vygotsky, Piaget, Erickson and Gardner. Slade learned about the Montessori and Waldorf methods, and she gained practical experience in Reggio-Inspired curricula. Her work with young children brought her to El Paso, where she continued to teach in preschool classrooms. Slade brushed up on the Texas state standards and the available early childhood resources that were offered here. While this was rewarding, something in her knew there was a farther path for her, one she wished to experience. Wanting to know more and validate her “self-taught” teaching practice, Slade made this happen by earning an MEd in Curriculum & Instruction with a concentration in Early Childhood Education and a PhD in Teaching Learning & Culture from The University of Texas at El Paso. Slade worked fast and hard (completing her PhD in four years while having and raising children). Wishing to impact the lives of young children in a broader way and to continue the focus began in her doctoral work (exploring Early Childhood Teacher’s Beliefs and their practices in the classroom), her working toward this led her to teaching at UTEP--first as an adjunct, then lecturer and now in her current role of Assistant Professor of Instruction. Currently, Slade helps train undergraduate teacher candidates and Master teachers in her beloved field of Early Childhood Education. Slade finds that the education of first-generation college students is in many ways similar to back when she started teaching toddlers and preschoolers. They, too, need rich experiences exploring, imitating, and creating, with a teacher willing to hold their hand when needed when the work gets tough. Helping students to fulfill their wish of becoming teachers and providing the tools to make this happen has become a joy in her life. Today, Slade is wishing and working toward the creation of new higher education programs, to offer new opportunities to her students and, always, in service of young children.