Johnson hires Hannah Miller to education faculty


Ian Major

Hannah Miller

Johnson State College recently hired Hannah Miller as an assistant professor in the Education Department. Miller is instructing three courses this semester as JSC’s elementary education specialist.

Miller is instructing a freshmen course called “Perspectives on Learning,” as well as a two-in-one course for seniors called “Integrated Elementary Methods and Technology for Instruction.” Her senior students work as instructors at schools four days a week. On Fridays, they meet for the second part of the course, talking about how to teach science and social studies in elementary schools as well as how they could integrate technology into it all.

Miller is from Atlanta, Ga., and first attended college in Memphis, Tenn., where she received a B.A. in biology at Rhodes College. She then moved to China, where she taught from 2001 until 2009.

“When I was in China I became very interested in environmental education,” said Miller. “I was teaching in an elementary school in Shanghai and we did a lot of urban gardening and use of the garden to transform a lot of curriculum in the elementary school.”

Miller noted that they used the garden to help with history, social studies, math and science. “Teaching this way made me very excited,” said Miller. “I wanted to come back to the United States to become a better teacher, and when I attended graduate school I fell in love with my research and the process of doing research and learning more about teachers and teaching.”

Following her return, Miller started by going to school in Indiana for her M.A. in environmental education from Goshen College, then moved to Florida for a specialist degree, and finished with her Ph.D. in curriculum, instruction and teacher education from Michigan State University.

According to Miller, there are a lot of reasons she ended up at JSC. “The state of Vermont was very appealing to me because of the state’s commitment to environmental education,” said Miller. “I figured it would be a great place to go and work with teachers and have opportunities where I would hopefully be able to integrate environmental education into the work that I wanted to do.”

JSC was Miller’s top choice from the beginning of her job search in Vermont. “JSC appealed to me because it is specifically a public liberal arts college, which was rare on my list. Most of the places I was applying to were private liberal arts colleges,” said Miller. “I really liked that JSC is public because of the commitment to helping engage citizenry and thinking about education for democracy and citizenship.”

Kathleen Brinegar, JSC education department chair and assistant professor in the education department, noted that there were a lot of applications for the new position. “We narrowed down our choices and performed Skype interviews with our top finalists,” says Brinegar. “We invited three candidates to campus, which made this a pretty competitive search.”

Brinegar says that the department is thrilled to have Miller at JSC. “She was impressive in all of the areas that we were looking for, her teaching demonstration was phenomenal and all of the students absolutely loved her when she came in to teach,” said Brinegar. “Her research is something that we are excited about and we feel like it’s going to bring a lot to the college.”

Miller noted that, so far, she loves everything about JSC and Vermont. “If anyone ever tries to convince me that Vermont is not paradise, I’m not going to listen,” said Miller. “Moving in the day before classes started has made the past few weeks pretty busy, but it’s been exciting and enjoyable getting to know the college and the area.”

Miller’s research focuses on how students think about the change that they might want to see in their community within the world, and how they might work to make that change.

“My hope for my students is that whatever content that we are learning about, whether it’s how to teach social studies, or how to learn about how people learn, I hope that they leave class with ideas about how to use that information to make a positive impact on their community if it’s within their school, state or even country,” said Miller.

When not teaching at JSC, Miller noted that she is birder, and she also enjoys disc golf and playing instruments such as the guitar.

Miller is also a published author on topics like climate change and education. Some awards she has won include the national K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award in 2015 from the Association of American Colleges and Universities. This award recognizes graduate students who show exemplary promise as future leaders in higher education.