‘She made us feel happy when we came to school’

Miller wins LB Teacher of the Year

Date Published: 
June 17, 2016

Coastal Point • Laura Walter: Amanda Miller teaches reading, writing — and respect — as Lord Baltimore Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year.Coastal Point • Laura Walter: Amanda Miller teaches reading, writing — and respect — as Lord Baltimore Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year.Surrounded by small desks and chairs, Amanda Miller lights up when she talks about teaching.

Her joy and professionalism combined to make her Lord Baltimore Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year for 2016-2017.

“You only need to spend a short time with Mrs. Miller to learn that she cares very deeply about being an educator and strives to give her very best to her students each and every day,” according to Principal Pam Webb.

“Teaching isn’t just reading, writing and arithmetic anymore. We teach respect and socialization and how to get along with others … so time can be a challenge, fitting all those things in,” Miller said.

But the kids give her energy, and she gives teaching her all.

It’s an inclusion classroom, so a special-ed-certified teacher joins Miller in a standard class that also includes students with disabilities or diverse learning styles.

“My big learning experience this year was making accommodations for those students,” Miller said. “I learned how to adjust my classroom and how it can fit them.”

For instance, hyperactive kids might get moving chairs or knickknacks to help them get rid of the wiggles, so their minds are gyroscopically focused on the assignment while their hands or feet have a physical task.

“I just try to stay open, because what works today might not work tomorrow. But we try to make adjustments,” she said.

Teachers have to be flexible to engage all 22 students. Miller’s lessons have to be fun and interesting, but also follow state education standards.

“I believe that kids will not learn unless they are happy and are in a supportive learning environment,” Miller said. “It’s essential to build positive relationships in the classroom.”

She must be doing something right to get such glowing student feedback:

“She was always kind to us and made us smile all the time. She made us feel happy when we came to school,” said one student recommendation. “If we needed help with something, she would sit next to us and show us that what we were doing really was not that hard.”

Miller said she loves seeing her students take pride in their learning, and she loves making a positive impact on this small portion of their lives.

“They have that internalized intrinsic gratification, knowing they accomplished their goal,” she said. “Coming to school is meaningful now, knowing that the hard work pays off.”

And they grow in more ways than one. Miller joked that they can all fit on one classroom rug before winter vacation, but they’re all too big after New Year’s.

Miller said she loves teaching second grade. At that age, “They still love to learn. They still love school. But they are a little more independent. … This is the grade where they’re making the transition from learning to read to reading to learn.”

Now the kids don’t want to put their books down.

She tries to connect with classroom parents, so education is a team effort for the kids.

“I think parent involvement is essential,” Miller said, even when parents don’t know how to help their children. “They need to stay involved and be models for their children.”

That includes reading to or in front of their kids, or showing how learning relates to the real world.

As Teacher of the Year, Miller said she was humbled to represent her colleagues, “a fabulous team of teachers.”

“I’ve always been fortunate to work with a great group of teachers here and at Phillip C. Showell [Elementary School],” where she was previously a reading and writing teacher.

Originally from Downingtown, Pa., Miller came to Delaware for a job, but just fell in love with the beach area.

A career in education was inevitable for Miller, who used to help small children add and subtract in her own mother’s classroom. Then she married into a family of teachers.

“There was never any question in my mind teaching was what I wanted to do,” Miller said. “I love what I do.”

She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Penn State, then specialized in reading for her Wilmington University master’s degree.

Besides serving on the school’s English Language Arts Committee and School Liaison Committee, she stays busy with her own children. Today, Miller is inspired to be the kind of teacher she’d want for her children.

“Through Mrs. Miller’s commitment and passion, she elevates teaching to an art form,” stated Assistant Principal Matthew Keller.