Member Spotlight: Jessica S. McLees

AACTE’s Member Spotlight features an individual from a member institution, highlighting how their work makes a difference in classrooms across the country. Nominate yourself or another member by providing a response to the following questions and sending to 

Get to know Jessica S. McLees …

Name: Jessica S. McLees
Position/Institution: Director of Accreditation, Assessment, and Research for the College of Education, Human Performance, and Health at USC Upstate
Number of years in your position: One year; 7 years in higher education; 9 years in K-12 education
Alma Mater(s): University of South Carolina (BA in History, Masters in Teaching, Ph.D. in Social Foundations of Education)
Hometown: Roanoke, Virginia

  1. How long have you been a member of AACTE?
    I joined AACTE in 2017.

  2. Why did you join AACTE?
    As a growing professional, I find it essential to connect with others in the field to identify issues and trends within the educator preparation profession.

  3. Why did you decide to enter the field of educator preparation?
    As a former K-12 educator, I know the importance of having a knowledgeable and qualified teacher in each classroom. Our students deserve this.

  4. What’s been your favorite or most memorable moment of your career so far?
    One of the best aspects of my job is that I have the opportunity to teach our students. These students are on the cusp of graduation and often need someone who will listen and offer guidance.

  5. What’s one thing — educator preparation-related or not — you learned in the last month?
    I recently completed two courses with Quality Matters (QM). QM is an international organization promoting quality assurance in online, K-12 and higher education, courses. In becoming a QM reviewer, I am more aware of the need to secure accessible documents, videos, activities, and content to create equitable learning experiences for my online students.

  6. What has been the greatest challenge in your career?
    One of the biggest challenges of my career is finding solutions to encourage first-generation students to persevere with their college degree, despite the rising cost of tuition, increase in inflation, and the strain from external commitments (i.e., family, job).

  7. What advice would you give someone who is interested in working in this field?
    Wonderful! You will have the opportunity to work with children who will become our future leaders, and you will make a difference in their lives! You will also have the chance to become a role model for children, colleagues, and the community at large!

  8. Who or what inspires you?
    My school-age children provide daily inspiration.

  9. What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
    I recently started a new hobby of whitewater kayaking with my family.

  10. What is your favorite part about being a member of AACTE?
    I look forward to forming new partnerships with colleagues while serving on the AACTE Membership and Capacity-Building Committee. In general, AACTE is a community of educators who have a strong commitment to the field of teacher preparation. We are aware of the problems plaguing teacher preparation and work collaboratively to find solutions.

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Meghan Grenda

Director of Membership, AACTE