Port Clinton’s Joe Miller is a natural for Teacher of the Year honors

Aug 2, 2023 | Featured, Schools | 0 comments

Teacher Joe Miller’s RED Talks have been heralded as “Talks Worth Sharing”

BY D’ARCY PATRICK EGAN

Proud to be named the Region 2 Teacher of the Year for 2023 recently, and in the running this week to be among the top three to vie for Ohio Teacher of the Year, Port Clinton High School sophomore English teacher Joe Miller deflects the praise, despite his hands-on style of teaching that has been earning him rave reviews.

“It’s a team effort,” insists Miller. “Port Clinton High School is a great place to teach, and the administration has never told me ‘no’ when I approach them with new and different ideas. They hired me seven years ago because they trust me to do the right things.”

That’s an understatement.

Miller prepares his English classes, which have more than 100 students in the seats each year, but doesn’t jump right in with lectures and homework. He wants to get to know his students, and with a bit of humor, let them know him.

He wants to give them a brand, starting with “We are PC,” and what it means.

“It’s really cool that I get to show them,” he said.

It means they must study, and contribute in such diverse programs as a Poetry Slam, public speaking exercises and the always popular RED Talks, stage performances a few minutes long on the school’s Performing Arts Center Stage in front a student audience.

Some students don’t willingly agree. Public speaking can be terrifying for a high school student, a fear that’s hard to shake.

“In the fourth quarter of every school year my students have to stand in front of the class and do a five minute argumentative speech,” said Miller. “Something they’re passionate about, such as should LeBron James be the first NBA player ever to be inducted into the Hall of Fame BEFORE he retires.”

Some kids are so fearful of public speaking, they’ve told Miller to just give them a “0” or an F, so they can escape the test.

“I work hard to build a good relationship with my students, and a sense of trust,” said Miller. “The students may be very uncomfortable, at first, but it’s a lesson they learn that will help them to be successful in the real world after they graduate.”

Miller graduated from Sandusky St. Marys High School, where he was a star tennis player, and the University of Dayton. He knew right off the bat he wanted to become a teacher.

“I had a business background growing up, because of my dad,” said Miller. “”So I looked at teaching school as a business, and studied how to improve and expand what schools could be doing for student success.”

All of the best teaching jobs at the time were in Florida, according to the experts, so Miller packed his bags after graduation and drove south. He stopped in Charlotte, N.C. overnight, and took the time to investigate the city. He loved its ambiance, so he applied that day at Mallard Creek High School there. He was surprised the next morning when he found out he was hired.

Six years later, he decided to head for home, where his father, Ron Miller, owns Our Guest Inn & Suites in Port Clinton and other businesses, and had a musical background that prompted creating The Listening Room, offering intimate concerts at the hotel, and producing the popular tune this year, “Port Clinton’s Calling Me,” to promote tourism.

During the summer, Joe and his brothers, David and Daniel, operate the downtown hotel.

At Port Clinton High School, Miller soon had his speech class creating and performing RED Talks, challenging students to think outside the box in developing a short presentation of their own choice to perform on the Performing Arts Center stage. Those talks were designed after the popular international TED Talks, made by experts around the globe.

The RED Talks found their way to YouTube, and to its own Podcast, Talking Red. His creative writing class has its own Podcast, Novice Novelist.

“I give a lot of the credit for our success to the Port Clinton High School administration, from Superintendent Pat Adkins to Principal Gary Steyer

and especially Director of Innovation, Kelly Croy and fellow teachers Karen Ferdinandsen, Jim Lamb and Ty Roth.

“The teachers I work with are outstanding, and the atmosphere allows me to be creative with our classwork and programs. We get together almost every day to brainstorm or just chat about teaching.”

Miller is well aware that incoming students shiver in their boots over the prospect of speaking in public, but he knows success with that ability will help to carry them through their career, no matter what they become.

“Getting in front of people and speaking is the key to unlocking growth. It gives students the confidence to do things they never thought they could,” said Miller.

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