Jackie Valadez

Position: ROP Dental Assistant

School: Southwest High School

School District: Central Union High School District

City, State: El Centro, California

About the Nominee: Jackie Valadez was nominated by her principal, Danette Morrell.

Jackie Valadez is an individual who has embraced leadership in many capacities and has been a LifeChanger in the Southwest High School community.

From her first day of employment, Ms. Valadez has provided leadership growth lessons to students through the career student organization, HOSA, for students in health science education or biomedical programs. In her very first year of going to state and national competitions, she taught students how to lead others and exhibit professionalism in community groups. She modeled leadership skills through her own behaviors that resulted in several state and national medals, which have impacted the Southwest High community. In the area of classroom needs, Ms. Valadez has taken on responsibilities such as writing health pathway curricula, meeting with community stakeholders on employment needs and speaking with state dental licensure representatives to offer an instructional program supported by dental professionals. This is above and beyond the typical leadership of the classroom teacher, and the Southwest High community has embraced this contribution.

Ms. Valadez has supported students by working with stakeholders who support students through offering internships, donating thousands of dollars’ worth of dental equipment and providing job shadowing opportunities. Recently, she has taken on the role of leading the health pathway teachers by chairing Southwest High’s California Health Pathway Grant, also known as SACHS. This requires her to facilitate teacher and community stakeholder meetings, review grant requirements and oversee grant budgets while offering students a program that grows each year and meets the needs of the school population. Finally, Ms. Valadez has sought out leadership growth opportunities on her own time. She was accepted into the Leadership Development Institute for Career Technical Education Leaders. This program required 14 days of out-of-school workshops where she absorbed all that was presented and brought back to the Imperial Valley what she learned by taking on volunteer roles with community groups.

An innovative practice that Ms. Valadez utilizes to support student learning is Healthy Habits Night, which is open to the community. She wrote for and was awarded a small grant that allows her to have her students learn about careers, good health practices and areas of research. Then, she teams up with teachers and students in Agriculture, Physical Education and Culinary to present a showcase for the community about how to live a healthier lifestyle. Her students collaborate with other classes and present to audience members side-by-side with dentists, the asthma coalition and cancer awareness instructors. The students are eager to learn everything possible because they know it will have real-life applications at Healthy Habits Night. This teaching practice has grown to be a well-attended and expected community event.

Another of Ms. Valadez’s innovative and engaging practices is her utilization of America’s Tooth Fairy. This national organization promotes volunteer outreach to under-served communities to promote dental health awareness. Ms. Valadez not only requires her students to learn basic practices in dental health, but to do community outreach with their knowledge to local elementary schools, during high school advisory periods and at community events. One of Ms. Valadez’s students even dressed up as a tooth fairy and educated primary age students on brushing and flossing at an event attended by a large majority of migrant field workers.

Ms. Valadez’s primary role is as a career technical education instructor for Dental Assisting, and she does an amazing job. This is evident in the number of graduates who come back to speak with her and the numerous students who seek her counsel when having a hard time in senior classes. One of her students was accepted to dental school and wrote in their application that it was Ms. Valadez who helped them discover their passion for the dental profession. Another student, through Jackie’s support, developed the leadership skills to become the California State HOSA president!

Ms. Valadez’s commitment to her community has gone above and beyond through her personal and student-led volunteering. It is rare to find a teacher who has changed as many lives as she has!