Miller fluent in language of music
By Suzie Romig
RFSD Public Information Officer
Learning does not stop for lunchtime in Jeannie Miller’s classroom at Glenwood Springs High School. The lifelong teacher of music will catch up later with a banana and nutrition drink because lunch is spent on extra time with students.
Music students come and go, making use of the choir room refrigerator and microwave. Miller spends her lunch singing and playing piano with high school seniors who are working on their own impressive musical compositions.
After lunch, a guest composer from Aspen will arrive to assist in Miller’s music theory class. Other days she and the students stay busy in rehearsal for a spring concert with her varsity, concert and ladies choirs.
That energetic dedication to her students is just one reason Miller was named the L.S. Wood Teacher of the Year in the Roaring Fork School District.
“I was stunned,” Miller said of the recognition. “When I found out the list of other teachers who were nominated as well, I was humbled and honored. We have amazing teachers, so to be picked out of all of those, it was very special.”
After teaching music and career skills in the RFSD for 19 years, Miller said the teaching award is a special boost.
“Just to get that shot in the arm this time of year and this late in my career, it felt very, very nice,” she said.
Miller will be recognized, along with the teacher of the year from the Re-2 district, during a special dinner Sunday evening at the Exclamation Point restaurant at Glenwood Caverns.
The award recognizes a teacher who inspires the love of learning in students of all backgrounds and abilities, said Don Parkison, L.S. Wood Charitable Trust administrator and himself a former GSHS teacher.
Each year the teaching honor rotates through the school levels, from elementary to middle to high.
A unanimous choice for the honor
GSHS principal Mike Wells said nominating Miller was a unanimous choice for the school’s committee because she is an inspirational leader who cares deeply about her students while earning the respect and admiration of students, parents and co-workers.
“No one inspires the love of learning in all students more than Jeannie,” Wells said.
In a word, “she’s awesome,” said senior all-state choir student Molly Ackerman.
“She has shown me that music can be an integral part of your life no matter what your specific interest,” said Ackerman, who has known the choir director for 12 years through church. “She’s an exemplary teacher, and her morals and standards are absolutely outstanding.”
Ackerman said the top teacher holds all students to the same high standards with an interesting combination of care and direction.
“It’s amazing to see students take off in choir,” the senior noted. “She single-handedly keeps many students in school and through to graduation. She is very strict in keeping you accountable, but she does it with so much love and compassion.”
“Although it is tempting to judge Jeannie on the basis of the accomplishments of her all-state choir participants or the stars of the school musical,” Principal Wells said, “that would only be part of the story. Jeannie works with all kids.
“Her classes are filled with severe special education students, second language learners, as well as some students who just seem to struggle in school. She somehow gets these students to perform at incredibly high levels.”
A musician from the start
Born into a family of singers and pianists, Miller said she knew she wanted to be a music teacher from a young age.
After finishing a bachelor’s degree in music education at the University of Central Arkansas, Miller worked in music education in elementary and junior high schools in Arkansas and Texas.
She began working at Glenwood Springs High School in 1985 (with one year spent at Carbondale Middle School), teaching everything from music history to service learning to instrumental music.
Choirs led by Miller regularly entertain at service club meetings, senior citizen homes and civic functions.
Outside of school, Miller is known in the community as a musical director for the Defiance Community Theater and productions at Colorado Mountain College.
She has served as the choral music director for Mountain View Church in Glenwood Springs for 19 years. She sings for weddings and funerals and instructs private vocal and piano lessons.
Miller and her department both will receive a $2,000 gift from the charitable trust.
The teacher already knows she will spend the money on things her department normally could not afford, such as extra keyboards, headphones and software composition programs for the students. For herself, she has her eye on a laptop to run music composing software.
“She really does believe that music is the universal language,” Ackerman said. “Honestly, she lives that way.””She really does believe that music is the universal language,” Ackerman said. “Honestly, she lives that way.”
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