Houston educator named Georgia Teacher of the Year

mlee@macon.comMay 16, 2014 

ATLANTA -- Out of 154 applicants, Miller Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Amanda Miliner is No. 1, the winner of the Georgia Teacher of the Year award.

“I’m excited, a little overwhelmed, shaking a little bit,” said Miliner, just after accepting her trophy at an Atlanta luncheon. “I’m excited for this challenge ... to represent teachers.”

The Georgia Teacher of the Year travels the state and nation as an ambassador for teaching. The winner also is entered in the National Teacher of the Year competition.

Miliner said when a lot of people think of teaching, they think of spring break and vacation. Which is not really it.

“If you can be there for a week (teaching) ... on your own, there would be a whole new appreciation of what we do. I teach in a Title I school. ... A lot of my babies come to school without basic needs met, and you’re asking me to take them from a 740 to an 800 and pass?” she said, referencing a reading score.

But it is more than possible.

“In education I’m an optimist because I’m a product of it,” said Miliner. She’s the first person in her family to go to college, and as the daughter of a single Air Force mother, she moved often and sometimes saw her mother go without for her sake.

Miliner initially pursued a different major in college but became inspired by a teacher she observed while volunteering with children. This is her fifth year as an educator.

One thing that helped Mili-ner pay for college was joining the pageant circuit. She’s a former Miss Georgia. Though the tears at the acceptance speech are similar, that’s about it. Pageants were her choice, something she worked on and aimed to win, she said.

But for Teacher of the Year, she was chosen for what she was doing anyway: her calling and career.

“My goal was my every day goal of my kids,” the Warner Robins schoolteacher said. “How am I going to push Jimmy to pass? How am I going to push him to do more?”

State school Superintendent John Barge said Miliner’s philosophy is “grounded on the idea of building meaningful relationships, differentiating lessons and being a master of the content being taught.”

For the past few years, he said, 100 percent of her students have passed their state math tests.

All 10 Georgia Teacher of the Year finalists took home a swag bag of gift certificates, teaching software and a tablet computer.

On July 1, Miliner starts her term and will take a sabbatical from teaching for the year.

She called that departure from the classroom “bittersweet.”

The competition is funded by private sponsors, and judges from the education and business communities decided the winner.

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