After graduating from Kansas State University with a wildlife biology degree, Todd Miller worked in several different math and science related fields for around four years.
Miller found himself dissatisfied with his work, so he decided to try something else.
He found what he really wanted to do was help others learn. Around the time Miller made this decision, Wichita State University was beginning its Alternative Teacher Certification program. He became a member of the first cohort group and has been sharing his passion for science with students ever since. After teaching at Wichita High School North for several years, he moved to El Dorado High School in 2003.
Recently, Miller was named as a semi-finalist for the 2013 Kansas Teacher of the Year award.
"The nomination for teacher of the year comes from colleagues, parents or students who feel that you have made a significant impact in the lives and education of students," he said. "The fact that the nomination comes from someone who you have worked closely with is very special."
Miller also credits the school for his nomination.
"The biggest reason that I am a Teacher of the Year regional semi-finalist is that I work in the El Dorado Public Schools," he said. "The building and district administration provide opportunities and encourages teachers to become involved in the education process beyond the classroom in building improvement, district leadership and at the state level."
At EHS, Miller has taught advanced biology, biology, chemistry, ecology and zoology.
In each of his classes, Miller works to make sure all of his students have a positive, nurturing environment in which to learn about science.
"My role is to give students a direction and allow them to explore, research and synthesize information," he said. "And in El Dorado, we have the benefit of incredible technology resources available to students. So I continue to learn how to integrate the use of technology into the curriculum and one of my main goals is to develop the technological proficiency of students using tools that didn't even exist when I started teaching."
Miller's teaching philosophy includes the statement, "I want my students to put information on the Internet - not find information on the Internet."
He wants his students to build a foundation of conceptual understanding and scientific thinking rather than knowing a list of facts.
In order to facilitate this, Miller gives his students projects, such as investigating the hardships animals face in surviving the winter and constructing and installing nesting boxes in the school's natural grassland area.
He also enjoys taking his students on field trips, some of which are more eventful than others.
Page 2 of 2 - "I took a group of Zoology students once to Cheney Reservoir to sample fish populations," said Miller. "The students were great, learned a lot and were safe. I, on the other hand, slipped on a rock, fell over, and accidentally filled my chest waders with water. Somewhere out there are former students with pictures of me walking across a parking lot with water sloshing out of my waders like a cartoon character."
Miller hopes to keep developing as a teacher, both inside and outside the classroom.
"I hope to continue on right where I am, but always getting better and better at what I do," he said. "I am looking forward to the new opportunities for professional development and leadership that being a nominee will open up to me."
In addition to teaching at EHS, Miller likes to stay involved in his community. He has served as a 4-H science event judge and a El Dorado Kiwanis Science Fair judge.
He has also volunteered at StarBase at McConnell Air Force Base, a summer science camp at Augusta United Methodist Church and at Vacation Bible School at First Baptist Church of Augusta.
As exemplary educators, the finalists and semi-finalists have the opportunity to participate in professional development conferences throughout the year. In addition, Miller will participate in visits to team members’ schools.