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www.gae.org | 23 Miliner changed her major to early childhood education and graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 2006. In her own classroom, she enjoys incorporating technology and storytelling into as many lessons as possible. They create presentations using PowerPoint and Prezi, build fake Facebook and Twitter pages, talk to experts overseas through Skype and develop pretend webpages. They investigate age-appropriate mobile applications, discuss current news and take virtual field trips. “We’re preparing students for jobs that may not even exist yet,” she says. “Technology is a great way to broaden their horizons, create with their hands and think critically.” Teachers are constantly borrowing lesson plans from Miliner or pairing up with her to do combined activities, Augsberger says. The duo combined their classes once to teach coordinates in a new way. They taped a large grid to the floor and then asked students to draw a coordinate point from a basket and hop to the number. “She’s resourceful and shares any supplies or ideas she has,” Augsberger says. “If you have concerns about a particular lesson plan or a child who is struggling, she always helps you find an answer.” BRINGING IN HOME LIFE When relating to students, teachers must remember what happens beyond the classroom, Miliner says. Growing up as an only child of a single mom, she often spent time in afterschool programs or with other families while her mom was away on active duty in the Air Force. Miliner, the first person in her family to graduate from college, thinks about blended families, socioeconomic status and self-identity when she talks to students. “I think my background helps with my teaching. I see myself in my students,” she says. “Though my mom didn’t go to college, she’s extremely intelligent and always wanted the best for me. She encouraged me to go to college, and I want to encourage my students as well.” Miliner talks about the importance of higher education and tells students about the scholarships that can help. She was named Miss Valdosta in 2006, Miss Georgia in 2006, second runner-up for Miss America in 2007, Miss Georgia USA in 2008 and competed in Miss USA 2008. Though she doesn’t talk about pageants or the awards much in the classroom, Miliner sometimes discusses the opportunities and experiences that come with winning. For example, the $50,000 in scholarships paid for her undergraduate and graduate degrees. “I explain the importance of being able to perfect my craft and not have to be in debt for it,” she says. “It’s like winning the lottery, but you earned it.” Miliner also talks about how she traveled to Africa while working with a nonprofit and explains how they, too, can earn degrees, travel and find a great job despite a tough background. “There’s no secret formula. Success comes from setting goals, finding out what you have to do to get there and then setting realistic steps,” she says. “If you don’t have money, you’re going to have to work harder. I want to help them do it.” In a few years, Miliner will begin teaching her own children the same lessons. Jordan, 2, and Avery, almost 1, surprise her each day and keep her going when she’s not in the classroom. “Avery is easygoing and fun,” she says. “Jordan’s a natural-born leader. He loves to read and absorbs knowledge quickly.” Miliner also credits a great home life to her husband, Kellen, who she met when they were in high school. He played basketball for the Creighton Bluejays in Nebraska and now works as a contract specialist at Robins Air Force Base. They married in 2010, and he’s still her biggest cheerleader. After school, she sponsors the school’s dance team and newspaper staff, offers free tutoring, drafts new lesson plans and grades papers. Kellen helps her clean the classroom, devise new projects and take care of their children. “I think my background helps with my teaching. I see myself in my students.” “I’m Teacher of the Year because of all the people who have helped me along the way,” she says. “I wouldn’t be able to do the activities I do if not for them. It truly does take a village to be a teacher and help our students.” ENCOURAGING LIFELONG LEARNING As she thinks about the future, Miliner plans to continue her higher education pursuits as well. She’s always enjoyed learning and wants to keep her love for lifelong learning alive. In the near future, she hopes to learn sign language and speak Spanish fluently so she can connect with more of her students in middle Georgia and hold conferences with Spanish-speaking parents. Miliner also will keep up her certifications and endorsements — gifted, science and English as a second language. She stays inspired by fellow teachers such as Jan Jacobsen, coordinator of the gifted program in Houston County, who taught the gifted endorsement program. “She had a way of having complete control of a classroom without any effort,” Miliner says. “She did it with kindness, respect and flexibility for our projects and deadlines. She’s all about her students, and we felt supported by her.” During the class, Jacobsen offered resources to use and activities to do in the classroom, including websites with built-in assessments and research-based lessons that work. She highlighted ways to present information in different formats and reach various types of learners — auditory, visual and kinesthetic. “Amanda is a dynamic teacher who allows the children to take ownership of their own learning,” Jacobsen says. “You hear about ‘sage on the stage’ and ‘guide on the side’ teaching styles, and she embodies that ‘guide on the side’ who builds relationships and empowers students.” Down the road, Miliner also plans to obtain a doctorate and write a dissertation. Why not continue the higher education process to the apex? “I want to show my students that you can go for your goals and do it all,” she says. “We all should always continue learning.”


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