It’s unusual to call a classroom a royal kingdom and the teacher a queen, but you haven’t talked to Heather Miller. The fourth-grade English Language Arts teacher uses those descriptions to engage her students. “They actually think it’s so funny,” say laughed, but she said it works. Miller has been teaching for 26 years, two at University View Academy, and has learned what engages kids and what doesn’t in the classroom. She said, “Teaching is trial and error. This theme just seemed to stick.” The lion’s share of teaching for Ms. Miller was in traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms and always in the elementary grades. Then, she retired. She was lured back into the field of education by an online school competitor. During her three years at that online school, she refined what she did in the brick-and-mortar setting and translated it into the virtual world. “It was a big adjustment,” she offered. “I had to become smarter with my time and get a bigger bang for the buck,” she confessed. It’s because she spends a shorter time with kids in the online classroom versus in the brick-and-mortar environment.
So, the classroom became the royal kingdom. The students are the royal subjects, and she is the queen. Projects her students are working on are known as royal bell ringers. During live sessions, the chatbox where students speak to the teacher is called talk to the queen. And her class has an everyday motto. It says: A royal is not afraid to fail because failure is a stepping stone to success. “I use a lot of levity in my classroom. It just makes it a little more fun, and it keeps me entertained too,” Ms. Miller explained.
Ms. Miller followed her sister, Master Teacher Jill Buuck, to UVA and said, this is where she belongs. She said she doesn’t entertain thoughts of retiring again. “I love what I’m doing. I’ve done a lot of leadership roles in education. But I love the kids and the rewards that bring everyday satisfaction. I feel fulfilled and challenged,” she volunteered.