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Teacher of the Year Finalist

Jackie miller teaching

Get to know more about Jacqueline Miller, our Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year Finalist.

Tell us about the nomination process and the experiences you have had as a Teacher of the Year Finalist. 

It has been a privilege throughout this year-long process to get to know the other finalists.  I have made great connections through our monthly meetings, where we share activities we use in our classroom and innovative ideas that we are utilizing in our district.  We participate in many team-building activities, which are especially fun because there is so much shared enthusiasm for the teaching and learning process among us.  We are all really passionate about creating engaging lessons for all of our students, and we share an enthusiasm for developing ourselves and for mentoring others.

How has this experience influenced or changed how you approach the classroom?

I am reflective in nature, and like many, I often live inside my own head! This process has increased my level of reflection for the teaching and learning process. It is not often that teachers record themselves and watch themselves teach, which we have been asked to do frequently throughout this process.  We are watching ourselves to assess student  engagement and student response.  It opens a new perspective when you watch a recording of yourself and see the level of engagement—and you see when the lightbulb goes off.  For me, it has induced a reflective process that is like no other and has helped me create more lessons with a heightened-level of student engagement.

How has it been meaningful for you to be nominated?

While it may sound a little cliche to say that being nominated for teacher of the year is a “dream come true,” that is exactly what it is for me.  I have been teaching since I could talk.  Before it was children sitting in front of me, it was every stuffed animal and doll that I had!  From the time that I could talk, I would set up my bedroom, my living room, my playroom and pretend it was my classroom.  My father was an educator, and I would sit in the back of his classroom watching him—knowing that was exactly what I wanted to do when I had the opportunity. When I step on the grounds of New Hope-Solebury I light up and all I want to do is teach, so just being recognized for my passion and love of the teaching and learning process is everything.

What is your advice for aspiring educators?

Remain flexible in the education process and understand that the foundation of everything we do is the relationships we have with our students. When there are  strong relationships in place, you will get more out to those students than they even knew they had to give. They will learn more than they thought they could, they will do more than they thought they could, and they will be more than they ever thought they could ever be. You can be flexible with all of the changes that happen around you, knowing what you give and the connections that you forge with the children will determine how much they are going to learn, how much they are going to grow, and ultimately, will determine their level of success.  Also, find joy in what you do every day. I can’t think of a more rewarding profession than being a teacher - everyday your impact is reflected in 20 plus people around you. I am fortunate because I love what I do. 

Our school district developed its Profile of a Graduate to outline the qualities we will cultivate in our students. What does the Profile look like to you? In other words, what do you hope your students will accomplish before they graduate?

When I think of the development and growth of my students, I think far beyond the curriculum. I think of who they will be one year from knowing me, two years from being part of my classroom, through elementary, middle and high school, and what they will look like out in the world. I think about the qualities I would want them to have and embody. All of these themes are part of our Profile of a Graduate, and I focus on them everyday. Structurally, we highlight one Profile theme each month, some of which include: being inclusive, being empathetic, being collaborative and being resilient.  Working together to develop these qualities throughout elementary, middle and high school positions our students to be the best version of themselves that they can be.

I was on the initial planning committee for the Profile of a Graduate, and I was so passionate about the concept. I had drawings and versions that showed what it would look like at the elementary level, middle school level and the high school level.  Outlining all of the qualities that I could imagine these children would need over time, allowed us to further develop the required competencies. Whenever I consider an idea, I’m thinking far beyond the present moment and consider how these competencies will support them academically, socially, and emotionally throughout their life.

What is next in the process for you?

I recently had the opportunity to present at the Pennsylvania Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts (PCTELA) 2022 conference and shared my passion for the teaching and learning process.  I was able to share “How can we EMPOWER our students to be the BEST VERSION OF THEMSELVES and CONTINUALLY LOOK TO GROW and IMPROVE?”  This conference provided an amazing opportunity to connect with pre-service teachers and English Language Arts Teachers from across the commonwealth.

On December 4, I will meet with the fellow finalists in Hershey, Pennsylvania. This will be the first time we will all meet in-person and together we will participate in professional development opportunities throughout the weekend.  They will announce the  Teacher of the Year at a culminating luncheon on Monday, December 5th!  I am already a winner.  I work and reside in a community that I love and respect, and I am inspired each and every day by my students!  For me, that is the gift - the win! I'm looking forward to continuing my work with Pennsylvania Teacher of The Year next year through mentorship with pre-service teachers, professional development and service.  

I am forever grateful to my students, community, district, and family for their enthusiasm, encouragement, support and love throughout this AMAZING experience!