Teacher Tuesday: WSESD’s Aric Miller.

November 3, 2020

Teacher Tuesday: WSESD’s Aric Miller.

Teacher Tuesday is a presentation of Shelby State Bank, www.shelbystatebank.com.

By Kate Krieger, MCP Staff Writer.

VICTORY TOWNSHIP – West Shore Educational Service District employability skills teacher Aric Miller helps students with special needs navigate the work world. 

Miller is a 2001 graduate of Mason County Central High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in special education from Hope College in 2005 and earned a master’s degree in educational administration through Central Michigan University in 2012.

After graduation, Miller said he was lucky enough to move back close to home and begin his career as an educator at Baldwin Community Schools.

“I began my education career at Baldwin Middle School in 2006 as a resource room teacher for sixth to eighth grade students,” Miller said. “I was fresh out of college and hit the ground running with my students in Baldwin Community Schools. However, my position there was short-lived as I received a call from a former teacher that summer, informing me that a position was opening up for special education at MCC High School, my alma mater. I was hired that summer of 2006 at MCC and then spent the next 11 years working for MCC. I worked in all grades at MCC and taught many subjects along the way, including K-5 computer literacy, fourth grade self-contained classroom and third through twelfth grade special education resource room. In 2017, I pursued an opportunity at West Shore Educational Service District as the new employability skills teacher, teaching job skills to students with special educational needs.”

Miller’s current program helps special needs students explore “real world” options, by teaching them everything from interviewing from a job and writing a resume to working in a wide realm of different job environments and how to navigate the work force as a whole.

“The purpose of the employability skills class is to serve students, with unique educational needs, from our local school districts in the areas relevant to finding, securing, and keeping a job,” Miller said. “Our curriculum focuses on skills that are not job specific, but on skills that are common across all industries and relevant to all employees. We place great emphasis on the soft skills or essential skills needed to maintain employment in the ever-changing job market.

“Dependability, responsibility, positive attitude, initiative, decision making skills, honesty and many others are touched upon during our year long course, which is housed on the campus of West Shore Community College.  Other areas I try to touch upon during the school year include themes such as, ‘Basic Work Habits for the Beginner,’ ‘Eight Ways to Find a Job,’ ‘Above Average Applications,’ ‘Budgeting,’ ‘Selling Yourself in an Interview,’ ‘Anger Management,’ and more. Over the course of the year, we conduct 25-30 in-person job tours to local businesses. While visiting each job site, we tour the facility and have the opportunity to interview management with questions pertaining to working at their business, while working on our own ‘soft skills.’

“The ultimate goal I have for this program is to instill an ‘above average’ attitude in the students and push them to recognize their abilities, potentials, and interests.”

Miller said he had some influences very close to home that drove him to pursue a career as a teacher.

“I really have to give the credit to my parents,” he said. “They always pushed me to be the best I could be, in all I do. As for the education field, my mom was a huge influence for me to pursue education. She recognized the skills that I displayed as a child and young adult that lent themselves well to a career in education.”

Never regretting his decision to pursue education, Miller also has some advice for those looking into education as a possible career choice.

“My advice to anyone interested in education is to get as much experience in any area of education and working with children that you can,” she said. “It may involve volunteering in a school, taking a part-time job at a school, or participating in a job shadow with an experienced teacher. Anything to get that work-experience in the educational setting will prove beneficial in your endeavor to become involved in education. The career requires a person that is willing to be very flexible and able to make changes on the fly, as no day is the same as any other in education.”

Being flexible as an educator is no stranger to Miller or to any of the teachers working this day in age and with the spread of COVID-19, teachers have had to learn to work under different pressures and roll with whatever comes towards them to assist their students in getting a proper education in a “not-so-common” world.

“When schools closed last year with the coronavirus closures, many emotions and concerns were running through my mind in regards to my students and how I was going to be able to keep in contact with them, check up on them, and hopefully continue some form of my class through a virtual platform with them,” Miller said. “It was an eye-opening experience and in the long-run made me a better teacher. I was able to use the time to work on utilizing new online platforms to keep in contact with my class and deliver some of our class curriculum as we worked through the spring months with online instruction. Zoom meetings were held on a weekly basis and I was able to keep in contact with most students from my class throughout the end of the school year.”

Now being back in the classroom, Miller is facing different challenges to educate and to keep students and himself safe.

“Being back in person this current school year has been a whole new experience and continues to evolve and change almost daily,” he said. “The first two months have proved challenging; however, the job of an educator requires me to embrace change and adapt daily while moving forward with my curriculum in new and engaging ways.”

 

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