Ms. Miller – A New Addition to the RVHS Staff

Lydia Jensen, Contributor

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Ms. Miller

Life Motto: If you don’t like something in life, change it.

The Author

With her engaging personality and charming charisma, sitting down with Ms. Miller was a stress reliever in and of itself. It was incredible to hear her stories, specifically how she was able to write an entire book by herself, and how it all started with a Facebook post.
In 2014, a close friend composed a post about her brother who was still missing in action from Vietnam. After doing some research, Ms. Miller found that her friend’s brother wasn’t the only one missing. In fact, there were a total of 37 people from Wisconsin who were still missing in 1995. Today there are still 25 men missing from a war fought over 50 years ago.
The making of her book, called Wisconsin’s 37 (published May of 2018), was fascinating to hear detailed out. Countless interviews, hours of research, and emotion was poured out into this book. All the while, she continued with college and all of her studies at UW Madison. Every chapter starts with a quote from a family member of those who had known one of the missing men. It was heartwarming but mostly heart-wrenching to hear these stories told from Erin which begs the questions if I can be affected by just a portion of the story told then how must it have felt to interview those families?
“It was definitely tough after hearing these stories,” She explained. “I certainly took breaks, and had to, often.”
One of the people she met gave her a bracelet with the words “Capt. David Leet, 4-13-72” (the day his aircraft went down) on it. She continues to wear this bracelet every day in remembrance.
Lesson learned, although social media has its downsides, it can lead you to some surprisingly great and meaningful things in life.

(for more background to Wisconsin’s 37 follow this link: https://www.whby.com/2018/07/19/am-fox-valley-erin-miller-author-of-wisconsins-37-71918/)

The Teacher

Ms. Erin Miller went to graduate school at UW Madison, majoring in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD). After obtaining an undergraduate degree in History, she then went on to getting a “certificate” In CSD so that she could get into the grad program. Then she got a Master’s in CSD as well.
One of her first jobs that highlighted her new career was working at Mendota Mental Health Institute, a maximum security prison for boys with “highly disruptive behaviors” for teenagers (13-18 years old). In her time there she helped these boys (a girls facility was yet to be added) with their English and Language skills. To help them improve their 1st-3rd-grade reading levels at the time, Ms. Miller came up with an idea to have them write their own autobiographies (see the bottom of this article for the final product). It proved to be a more difficult task than expected. She found that children who grew up in households where their parents didn’t read or explain things to them, heard 30 million words less than somebody who had parents or guardians who did.

[The boys from Mendota Mental Health Institute’s final autobiography drafts]

One example she shared while guest speaking in Mr. Manske’s AP Statistics class was how she would use the expression “It’s Monday.” If she dropped her water bottle she would say “Well, it’s Monday” and move on. One day a boy expressed to her that he didn’t understand why she was always saying a day of the week when something minor went wrong. To this, Ms. Miller had to explain the expression which was just assumed that everybody knew. After that, he started using the expression every week! It’s crazy all of the things we say in everyday life that to people who haven’t been exposed to it would find puzzling. Think of how many Moods, Rips, and Sames you hear in a day, and how if you didn’t grow up with that surrounding, how confused you’d be.
The boys found a lot about themselves through this experience, as did she. Ms. Miller said that eventually, she would love to go back.

The Personality

A super crazy fact that stood out to me personally was that Ms. Miller emailed Jodi Picoult and she got a personal response back! For those of you who don’t know Ms. Picoult, she is a well-known author and has written multiple New York Times Best Sellers. (Her most notable novel was made into an arguably disappointing movie, made from her arguably amazing novel called My Sister’s Keeper.)

Here are some fun facts I have learned about Ms. Erin Miller:

Biggest Pet Peeve: Slow Drivers
Favorite Sports Team: Watch out. She’s a Lions fan.
Her official job description is a Speech and Language Pathologist
Favorite Book: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, and the Kingkiller Series.
She has voted in the most recent elections, but having used absentee ballots since she is registered in Madison.
Best Advice: “Don’t get caught up in the name of a college. Go where it feels right.”
Best Quote: “Your education is what you make of it.”
Favorite Shows: Firefly, The 100, and The Pacific.
She only had 8 people in her graduating class at Madison Country Day High School in Waunakee, Wisconsin.
Musicals Performed In: Music Man, The Pirates of Penzance, and Thoroughly Modern Millie
Ms. Miller is on the record saying, “I didn’t like college.”
Took Spanish for 6 years, yet can not speak much Spanish now and wishes she would have stuck with it.
Where has she traveled?: Most notably Australia, and Washington DC.
An Idiosyncrasy: She loves thunderstorms.

Welcome to River Valley High School! Thank you for sharing your stories with us, and I hope you enjoy your time here.

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