By Celine Klosterman
Mary Jo Miller is a dedicated teacher whose energy and upbeat attitude make class interesting, according to two students at Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School in Burlington.
For her efforts in teaching English and journalism to them and other students, as well as coaching debate and speech teams, The Hawk Eye in Burlington recently named her Teacher of the Year. Miller received the award May 7 during a banquet sponsored by the daily newspaper and Pzazz Entertainment Complex in Burlington.
“It’s such a great thing for Catholic schools to be recognized,” Miller told The Catholic Messenger. “I feel like I represent all the teachers in our school system who’ve been nominated but never won.”
She was among about 160 teachers nominated by students in southeast Iowa and west-central Illinois. Her honor included a prize of $600 for her classroom and $400 for herself.
“Notre Dame has been like family to me,” said Miller, who graduated from the high school in 1969 and has taught there 34 years. “I love having all the high school kids every year, seeing them grow and being able to build on their progress.”
Miller “absolutely stood out” during the judging process, said Jan Jaeger, Newspapers in Education coordinator for The Hawk Eye. “You can feel her passion.”
Jaeger was not among the three anonymous educators who judged nominees, but said Miller devotes much time to students and to improving herself professionally.
“She puts so much effort into each of her classes,” wrote senior Emily Bohnenkamp in nominating Miller. Throughout high school, “she has remained one of my favorite teachers. She puts each one of her students before herself.”
“Mrs. Miller brings a positive attitude to school every day,” wrote senior Jacob Giertz. “She always is energetic and likes to have fun.” She also challenges him to be the best he can, he wrote.
Notre Dame teachers and parents “all work together to bring out the best in our students, and the young people really excel because of it,” Miller said. “They are very special to me.”