SUU to Everywhere

Denise Padilla ('01)

Denise Padilla ('01) | SUU to College Program Supervisor


Originally published on June 15, 2020.

An avid reader from an early age who taught every doll or stuffed animal she ever owned, Denise Padilla was “that kid” who knew as a youngster that she wanted to be a teacher. Today, she is the elementary education program supervisor at Great Basin College (GBC), a college of nearly 4,000 students in Elko, Nevada.

Denise teaches a full 15-credit academic class load, supervises student teachers, facilitates the required capstone/portfolio class, and advises students in GBC’s bachelor’s degree and alternative route to licensure pathways.

After graduating from SUU in 2001 with a degree in Elementary Education, Denise taught for eight years in Nevada’s Clark County School District before moving to her hometown of Ely, Nevada, where she taught first and third grades for the next 10 years. While in Ely, she served as the response to intervention facilitator for the White Pine County School District and provided professional development for teachers. It was in this capacity that she discovered the rewards of working with adults in the public-school system and began her association with GBC. A few years later, including a move to Elko, Denise was offered an adjunct position at GBC, later a tenure track position in the education department, and now her supervisory position with student teachers.

“This position has allowed me to meld my love of teaching elementary school and my love of working with teachers,” she says. “Now, I get to teach teachers!”

Denise says Southern Utah was the only school she ever wanted to attend and credits SUU’s small class size, close friendships, and supportive faculty and lead teachers for showing her the kind of educator she wanted to be. It was here that she discovered the foundational importance of literacy, learned how to incorporate hands-on instruction in the classroom, and caught a glimpse of the diversity of students she would encounter throughout her career.

“Even now, I look back on the rigorous education classes and strive to build and teach my classes at GBC in the same light,” she says.

One of her most rewarding experiences as an educator was teaching a first-grade student who was adamant that she would never learn to read. One day during a reading lesson, the student began to decode words on the page of her book and screamed, “I can read!”

“I literally stopped the lesson and cried and hugged the little girl,” she recalls. “That ‘aha’ moment is what I live for in the classroom.”

Denise and husband John are the parents of the three active children ages 14, 11 and 7. She loves to bake and read with her kids, and she volunteers as a Nevada Promise Scholarship Mentor. Denise and John are also the builders of little free libraries that sit inside local school playgrounds for students to take and give books.