Jessica Deshler grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico surrounded by family members, and knew she would stay close to her roots while pursuing and education. Her family’s roots begin in Central Texas and in the lands of Northern New Mexico since before the land was part of the US. She knew she would study mathematics from an early age, having some amazing opportunities in middle and high school to pursue creative mathematics. She earned her undergraduate degree from New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, and her graduate degrees from the University of New Mexico, all in Mathematics. All 4 of her children were born while she was in graduate school, and she uses this experience to advocate for mathematics students who also want to begin their families. She is now Professor of Mathematics, and Graduate Program Director at West Virginia University, where she is only the third woman, and is the first Hispanic faculty member to be fully promoted. She spent 2015-2016 as a US Fulbright Scholar in Hungary, where she provided professional development to international doctoral students.
Dr. Deshler’s passions for mathematics and teaching led her to change her research path from applied mathematics and fluid dynamics to the field of undergraduate mathematics education during her doctoral program. Since that time, she has established herself as a leader in the field, especially in the area of graduate student professional growth. She strongly believes that positive experiences in teaching and mentoring while in graduate school have a huge impact on the future careers of mathematics graduate students. She has worked to study how graduate students progress in their teaching philosophies and teaching practices as they participate in various teaching experiences and professional development opportunities. Dr. Deshler also has a passion for supporting students from all backgrounds in mathematics, and has studied the ways in which our undergraduate classrooms support, or not, women and underrepresented students. Her work has been supported by grants from the Mathematical Association of America, the National Science Foundation and the US Fulbright Commission.
Dr. Deshler is an advocate for always striving to improve one’s teaching. As a graduate student, she received minimal preparation in teaching but knew that there were ways to provide evidence-based professional development opportunities to graduate students to support them earlier in their teaching career, especially since many of them will go on to teaching careers. She has spent over a decade developing and providing professional development opportunities to graduate teaching assistants and had been involved in national projects to both better understand the current state of such opportunities in departments across the US and to improve that state. She was one of the authors on the Mathematical Association of America’s instructional Practices Guide (2018). These activities are all centered around knowing that students learn best by being guided through their learning and doing mathematics in the classroom, not by watching others do mathematics. But, teaching a class entirely through student-centered instructional strategies can be overwhelming for new instructors, especially if they haven’t spent time in classes that are led this way, so Dr. Deshler’s work has focused recently on supporting new instructors through peer-mentoring to implement small scale practices and activitis that they can manage more easily. She has had the opportunity to teach undergraduate and graduate mathematics and mathematics education courses, campus-wide grant-writing workshops, and various ad-hoc seminars on professional tools and the academic job search. In addition to her work with graduate students, she has been involved in programs to support in-service teachers seeking an Elementary Mathematics Specialist Endorsement and is currently Co-PI on an NSF-funded project to develop Mathematics Master teachers at the secondary level to better support educators and students throughout the state.
Dr. Deshler’s passion for teaching and supporting graduate students manifests in all areas of her work, from teaching and research to service. She currently serves as Graduate Program Director and Graduate Teaching Assistant coordinator in her department, overseeing the advising and progress of approximately 50 full time graduate students, the development of the graduate program and the professional growth of approximately 30 graduate teaching assistants. She considers herself a role model, advocate and resource for women in mathematics, especially students who don't believe they can be mathematicians and have a family and life outside of that work. Besides serving on department committees, additional service and mentoring work she has done include serving as a faculty associate for the WVU Center for Women’s & Gender Studies, as a Provost’s Fellow in the Office of Graduate Education and on the WVU Council for Women’s Concerns. Her commitment to the state of West Virginia is seen in her work with in-service elementary and secondary teachers through funded projects and in her leadership as the Dean of Students for the West Virginia Governor’s STEM Institute, a summer residential program for rising 8th graders from all parts of the state.
Hispanic Heritage month, to me, is a time to reflect on where we came from and what we can accomplish. Particularly for mathematics, it is also a time to reflect on who is supported to be a part of the mathematical community, and where we might need to continue to develop support structures and remove barriers for others.