Embodying grace: A Tribute to Jacquie Porter

Written by// Sue Carpenter, Chief Programs Officer

Over the weekend, I learned about the passing of Jacquie Porter, Austin’s beloved early learning leader. This week has been a profoundly sad one, but I can’t help but reflect on the many wonderful experiences that I – and everyone in the Austin early education community – shared with this extraordinary colleague and friend.

I first met Jacquie over a decade ago, when she was the Principal of AISD’s Lucy Read PreK Center. Even though her focus was on building and growing an exemplary early learning model for the district, she immediately stepped into a leadership role for the broader community coalition focused on school readiness. Having Jacquie at the table meant everything. If I could sum her up in one word (impossible!) – it would be “grace.” She was incredibly kind, thoughtful, and unstinting in the amount of time and counsel she was prepared to give to make our community better for young children and families.

Very few people are both visionary and practical, but Jacquie dreamed of what could be and figured out the steps needed to make the vision a reality. One of my first conversations with her was about how the district could partner with community-based child care centers to deliver high-quality pre-K. She listened, asked questions, and then created plans to put this into action. Several pilot projects followed until the model was truly functioning, but she persisted across years despite all the challenges. Today, because of her work at Texas Education Agency, pre-K partnerships are sprouting across the state of Texas.

Colleagues of Jacquie will always remember her love of children’s literature and her delightful read-aloud technique. Many meetings she hosted closed with Jacquie reading a storybook to a captivated adult audience, many of whom (including me) would be moved to tears. Not only did Jacquie have a deep and insightful appreciation for the needs of young children, but she also brought that empathy to her work with adults.

The best way I know to honor such an extraordinary and exemplary life is to continue her work to create the world she knew we could have, and should have…a world where quality early child care is available to all and sets all children on a path to reach their true potential.

I loved Jacquie Porter. I am better because I knew her and more importantly, the world is better because she graced it.

All of us at United Way mourn her loss, celebrate her life, and vow to continue her legacy.

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