Name: Jami Swindell
Location: St. Louis, Missouri and Urbana, Illinois
Occupation: Doctoral Student, Research Assistant and Teaching Assistant, College of Education, Department of Special Education at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Teaching Assistant and Doctoral Student Jami Swindell took to teaching before she was even out of school, finding her way into early childhood education prior to graduating high school
“I actually started teaching swimming lessons at the local community pool as a teenager. I really liked teaching the classes with the youngest children where we “learned through play” with games like Mr. Frog and Splash-around-the-Rosie.” Jami explains. “From there, I was able to work as a pre-school assistant and school-age teacher at a small child care center in my hometown.”
Continuing on her compassionate path, Jami began working with children who had special needs in a local child care center.
“I found myself making sure that all the children were included in activities, planning activities to meet the needs of the children who needed more support,” she says.
Working with a diverse demographic throughout her academic career, she went on to take part in the Child Development Lab at the University of Missouri and the Child Development Center at Missouri State University, focusing her studies on children with special needs and their families. It was from there that she decided to also extend a helping hand to professionals within special education through Project BLEND.
“Project BLEND focuses on preparing professionals within Early Childhood Special Education and Early Intervention for infants and toddlers with special needs,” Jami explains. “It supports professional development to blend practices within the fields of Early Childhood Special Education and Early Intervention to support interactions between systems, smooth transitions for families and shared policy or advocacy efforts.”
It also acts as a facilitator bringing research into practice, while championing those strategies that have been proven effective within Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education. It helps those professionals within the field gain experience at the local, state and federal level while also providing opportunities to participate in teaching, research, and service, including internships and shared research projects. It’s a collaborative approach, providing information, services, and training, while also remaining engaged with the families and special needs children within the community.
Jami spends much of her time in the classroom, either as a student or a teaching assistant. She also works as a research assistant for a statewide training program that provides webinars, meetings, and training collaboration for early intervention providers. Beyond her work, she is also a member of on campus committees, including acting as the Vice-President for the Special Education Graduate Student Association.
After her doctorate is completed, Jami hopes to create policy and sustainable systems grounded in research-based practices within Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education.
“I hope to continue to share my knowledge on child development, family-centered practices, and inclusive educational practices with other professionals through teaching and providing workshops at conferences. This leads to my other goals – traveling, building connections within the field while supporting my friends and family in meeting their own goals!” Jami says.
And what does this student educator suggest as life-based homework for young girls out there?
“Aim high, set your goals and make plans to achieve them! Rely on those who love and support you when you need them. When you reach one goal, make another and work hard to achieve it!”
Some sage advice from one wise teacher, we think Jami Swindell is one Cool Girl!