CEPR Doctoral Student Adds to Long List of Awards

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Jessica Minton has been working toward her doctorate degree within the College of Education’s Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology & Research (CEPR). Throughout the years, she’s received noticeable recognition for her work as an educator. Minton tells us her passion for learning started at a young age.

Jessica Minton

“It started when I was in kindergarten,” she said. “My mother tells the story of when I came in after school…and told her I was going to be a teacher when I grew up.”

Her career started in 2009, after graduating from Maryville College with a major in Biology for teacher licensure, and after teaching for seven years Minton moved to Memphis in 2016. She started teaching at Grandview Heights Middle School and later Riverdale K-8 before ending up at Houston High School in Germantown, where she currently teaches STEM classes.

“In 2018, after a couple of years of having the strong desire to see special education and science education merge to create more equitable opportunities for students of all abilities, I knew it was time to go back to pursue my doctorate,” Minton said. “The University of Memphis had the best program in which I could focus on bridging the two disciplines together and had the support from science education and special education through the College of Education.”

These last eight years in Memphis, Minton has not just put in work toward her research but award-winning work in the classroom, receiving:

  • Germantown Education Foundation Teacher of the Month, February, 2016
  • Teacher of the Year, Germantown Mun. Schools and Southwest CORE Region, 2017
  • WREG Channel 3 and Tennessee Lottery Teacher of the Week, 2018
  • Tennessee Education Association Distinguished Educator, 2018
  • Joint Science and Technology Institute for High School Teachers, 2018
  • Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society in Education, 2019
  • NEA Foundation, California Casualty Award for Teacher Excellence, State of TN, 2020
  • NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellowship, 2019-2021
  • Scaling Up for STEM, National Education Association, 2023
  • National Association of Biology Teachers, Outstanding Biology Teacher of the Year, State of TN, 2023
  • DoD STEM Ambassador, 2023-2024
  • Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities (DADD), Teacher of the Year, 2024 (Pictured at the DADD award presentation in Honolulu, HI)

Her most recent award will come at this year’s Association of Southeastern Biologists (ASB) 85th annual meeting in Chattanooga, where Minton is to receive the Lucrecia Herr Outstanding Biology Teacher Award, which recognizes an outstanding high school biology teacher within the host state of the conference. 

“‘Nothing is impossible. The word itself says I’m possible.’ That quote from Audrey Hepburn reminds me and my students every day that anything is possible, including this general education teacher who had the dream for more inclusive experiences for all my students,” said Minton. “Through my doctoral program, I found the confidence to add special education teacher to my certification but more importantly open the doors to champion all my students, to truly model authentic learning experiences for my students with more extensive needs and to prove that all students deserve a learning environment to explore, shine and thrive.”

The ASB Annual Meeting, where Minton is set to receive her latest award, takes place March 20 to 23.