Jade Teegarden: Winner of the first-ever Rae Harris Award for Intellectual Curiosity through the DPS Gifted and Talented Department

Posted June 19, 2018

“Nature versus nurture; what makes a man into what he becomes tomorrow? The genetic gifts passed onto him, tenets of society, or a fusion of the two? The debate has prolonged its time, leaving even the most intelligent people in complexities,” Denver Online High School sophomore, Jade Teegarden, reads along.

“One of the first big projects of going to Denver online was doing this really special essay for my English assignment,” she said.

After reading the book, The Other Wes Moore which was about, “two men with the same name Wes Moore but at two different fates. And this was also talked about the factors in the life, and the families and the friends they grew up with, to also just the backgrounds of the neighborhoods,” Teegarden explained. “And ultimately it was the decisions that each of them made that led them to the point in life where they were. One actually ended up in prison while the other one was a very successful person.”

But while Teegarden was simply asked to write a brief essay about the theme of the book, she decided to challenge herself by making it personal.

“It was a struggle because one of my family members did not end up in the greatest spot in life,” so she explored a real-world example, writing letters. “It was how that family member affected me and my family over the course of, you know, the last two to three years,” gaining insight from multiple family members.

She explained, “I also reached out to that family member and asked how it affected them as well and what decisions they would have made or regretted so that they wouldn’t be in that spot.”

Her findings were not only powerful, but ones that might sit close to home. “I was born in China and I was adopted by my family around fifteen months old.” Nature versus nurture looks different for her but tells a story just as impactful.

“What’s cool about the orphanage in China, at least my orphanage, is that they saved everything,” she said. Just last year, with the flexibility of online education, Teegarden was able to travel back to where she was born, including the station she was left at as a baby.

“I didn’t cry upon receiving them, but it was definitely like, ?Wow, so these were the clothes I was left with,'” she described. “Because I was abandoned around one month. So it’s definitely like, ?Oh okay.’ It’s just kind of nice to know, even though you were left, you were still loved.”

Teegarden was adopted by parents who have given her an incredible shot at life, in an environment she wasn’t necessarily born into, but one that holds countless opportunities to be her best self.

One part of her environment has been her ability to choose a school that matches her learning style. “I ended up coming to Denver Online because I was frankly unhappy where I was,” she expressed, noting her experience at a previous school. “I don’t think it was giving enough for me in terms of being a really well-rounded person.”

So she made the switch to Denver Online High School. “As the motto is, you get to ?DO MORE,’ I get to explore more. And of course, I don’t have to be on that rigorous eight hour block schedule. And I get to decide, ?Hey maybe today I’m struggling with math so I’ll spend three hours on that, and I’m not doing too bad in science so maybe I just won’t do science today.'”

And this fits her and her inquisitive mind well, recently earning the first-ever Rae Harris Award for Intellectual Curiosity through the Gifted and Talented Department. “For me, intellectually curious means someone who is willing to go beyond thinking of an average human. Just really contemplate the things of life, how they could solve a problem more easily, it’s more beneficial. It’s definitely going the extra mile,” she said.

We all have multiple potential fates. Whether we make good choices or mistakes, whether we are left or adopted, or whether we are forced to fit a mold or freed to be uniquely ourselves, the outcome can be starkly different. We may not ever have a definitive answer on the nature versus nurture debate. However, Denver Online believes each student is born with special gifts, but it is a school’s purpose to provide an environment that nurtures those gifts.