‘Teacher of the Week’ helping exceptional children learn at their own pace

BURGAW, NC (WWAY) — Students tend to learn at their own pace but one veteran Pender County teacher has a unique way of reaching students at her school.

Melissa Miller teaches Exceptional Children, or EC, students at West Pender Middle School in Burgaw. Many of the students in her class struggle with reading, math and/or written expression.

“I love my job here,” Miller said. “I love the students here.”

The ‘Teacher of the Week’ nomination we received said Miller is a tremendous asset to the school and she ensures her students get the best education possible.

“Some kids, I’ll have three years in a row, and when I have them in sixth grade and they’re struggling to read and then in seventh grade they’re able to read 100 words a minute on grade level text—that just thrills me,” Miller said.

When we visited the school to recognize her, Miller said she was very surprised.

“I’m very thrilled, I’m a little bit in shock but I’m very thankful that I am so appreciated here,” she said.

A 1996 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Miller has spent her entire career working with EC students.

During the pandemic, Miller and her students have had to navigate lots of changes with remote and hybrid learning. So, when her students were able to return to school for full time, in-person learning, Miller says they were thrilled to be back together.

“I had students that I never thought I would hear them say ‘I am so glad to be back at school,'” she said.

Having a consistent routine and a sense of safety which Miller’s classes offer, is extremely important for EC students.

“The kids are on a schedule, they’re on a routine, they’re able to locate materials easier that they have stuffed in their book bags somewhere,” she said.

Tony Hudson is the principal of West Pender Middle School which has nearly 200 students.

“Mrs. Miller is one of the most engaging teachers I’ve ever encountered,” said Hudson. “For the size of our school, her case load is large, but you would not tell by the work that she does.”

He also says she has a way of building relationships with her students.

“She breaks down those barriers very, very quickly, her students see her more of a mother figure,” he said. “So they are very willing to come to her class. They engage with her and they want to learn as much as they can with Mrs. Miller.”

Despite their individual learning challenges, Miller says she strives to create a positive environment to meet the needs of each student.

“Whether you’re in a pandemic or its just a typical school year, you’ve got to want to be here,” she said. “Your attitudes got to be positive so the students’ attitude will be positive and it just kind of trickles down from there.”

If you know a great teacher, click here to send us a nomination. Each week’s winner gets a $100 gift card.

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