As she spoke to reporters just after
finding out she was Georgia’s 2015 Teacher of the Year, Amanda Miliner told a
story that’ll tell you everything you need to know about the kind of teacher
When she was named Miss Georgia in
2006, Miliner had just received a bachelor’s degree in early childhood
education. She’d felt the pull of the classroom early on, knew she wanted to be
During her year as Miss Georgia,
Miliner worked to raise awareness of the benefits of mentoring programs. In the
year following, she spent time traveling and working in entertainment.
But something was missing.
That pull, that drive to be in the
classroom, to work directly with students and to shape and to teach –
she felt it everywhere.
“I would go to the grocery store and
see things that would be perfect for a class,” she said, as the reporters
around her transferred her words to their notepads. “Like, plastic eggs? That
would be great for a grammar activity.”
So Miliner – now a fourth-grade
teacher at Miller Elementary in Houston County – followed that pull. Off to
the classroom she went, and it’s where she has stayed.
“I felt like something was missing,”
Miliner wrote in her Teacher of the Year application, describing that time
in-between. “I enjoyed what I was doing, but felt empty. I quickly realized
that in order for me to feel genuinely happy, I needed to go back to my dreams
of being an educator, where I felt most fulfilled in life.”
Miliner is a product of public
education, a military child who found constancy in relationships with her
teachers. In 2006, she became a first-generation college graduate and, in 2011
and 2012, respectively, she became the first member of her immediate family to
earn master’s and specialist’s degrees.
“With education, I’m optimistic,”
Miliner told reporters. “I’m a product of it.”
Miliner’s math Early
Intervention Program classes have consecutively had 100 percent
pass rates on the math portion of the CRCT. She is, her principal wrote in a
recommendation letter for the Teacher of the Year program, “the epitome of what
all educators need to be”.
But ask Miliner what she’s proud of,
and she’ll point to something outside of those accomplishments.
“I am most proud of the fact that I
can stand before my students as an example of what hard work and
determination can do,” she wrote in her Teacher of the Year application. “I
also am proud to stand before my peers as a proud educator who is blessed to
work in a profession where each day is meaningful and relevant.”
As Teacher of the Year, Miliner will
be an advocate. She’ll be a voice for others like her, teachers who daily
choose the classroom because it’s where their passion lies – teachers who felt
that call deep inside them, and heeded that call, and stayed.