Education professor Debra Miller honored with McDaniel’s top teaching award

Julia Jasken, Deb Miller, President Roger Casey
May 20, 2017

Professor of Education Debra Miller was honored with the 2017 Ira G. Zepp Distinguished Teaching Award for her devotion to mentoring her students through innovative teaching, challenging and engaging course work and a passion for her discipline that is best described as simply infectious.

Coordinator of the Reading Specialist: Literacy Leadership master’s degree program, Miller’s name has become synonymous with McDaniel’s summer reading clinic — a clinic practicum for her Reading Specialist master’s candidates — that has opened new worlds to countless Carroll County school children. Over the past 16 years, she has worked with her master’s degree students to create rich, motivating literate environments around exciting themes.

Announcing the award during McDaniel’s Honors Convocation May 19, Provost Julia Jasken quoted Betty Smith, author of “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.”

“Smith once said, ‘Oh, magic hour, when a child first knows she can read printed words,’” said Jasken. “There is no way to measure the powerful and widespread impact Deb Miller has had on children everywhere by teaching their teachers how to open those magical doors to reading.”

During the summer, young people working with Miller’s graduate students have soared into space, trekked through a rain forest and even competed in the Olympic Games. In the process, children who have long associated reading with failure and other negative emotions, have fallen in love with reading and writing. And perhaps the best part is that they and their teachers-in-training go home each day from this camp-like clinic with smiles on their faces.

Started by former McDaniel president Joan Coley 44 years ago and continually enhanced under Miller’s watchful eye, the clinic and the Reading Specialist program have empowered dozens of reading specialists who in turn have changed the lives of children across the country and around the globe. Graduates of the program carry on this professor’s legacy in schools and as authors on bookshelves across the United States.

Her students consistently applaud Miller’s courses as well organized, relevant and rigorous. They value and appreciate the detailed planning and timely feedback that goes into every lesson, and they are inspired by her knowledge, know-how and unwavering belief in the inalienable right of every child to have access to learning.

Miller’s reach also extends far beyond our campus through her unparalleled volunteer work in literacy at the international level. An influential member of the International Literacy Association (ILA) and co-chair of ILA’s Professional Standards and Ethics Committee, she has played a leading role in developing guidelines and performance expectations. She is making a significant impact on literacy as a chief writer of ILA’s Standards for Reading Professionals for 2017, just as she did in 2010.

Closer to home, Miller’s work with the Maryland Department of Education (MSDE) also demonstrates her dedicated commitment to literacy. She helped revise the two required reading courses every PreKindergarten through 12th-grade Maryland teacher must take and crafted the rubrics necessary for MSDE course approval.

A noted scholar in her field and much admired professor, Miller is also an avid college basketball fan and subscribes to The Big Ten Network to watch games all across the country. She loves to travel and has visited over 100 national parks and monuments — and bakes a mean dish of lasagna. She is an accomplished musician who has played the church organ at numerous weddings. She earned her B.S. and M.Ed. at Frostburg State University and her Ph.D. at the University of Maryland, College Park.

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