In the News: 'Grad About to Fulfill Lifelong Dream'

The following feature about Hannah Miller, Augustana class of 2012, appears in the Monday, June 4, edition of the Argus Leader:

Augie Grad About to Fulfill Lifelong Dream
By Jill Callison, Argus Leader

When Hannah Miller was in elementary school, her prize possession was a 30-gallon Rubbermaid tub that contained school supplies such as books, markers and a white board.

As soon as the school year ended in the spring, she would preside over classes at home in rural Mankato, Minn., with her younger sister the only student.

Miller would post a school lunch menu and prepare lesson plans. For gym class, she would have her sister run around the house.

It was heaven.

Learn more about Hannah Miller.

For about two weeks.

Then her sister would balk, and school came to an end.

But this coming week, Miller will walk into a classroom at Hawthorne Elementary and know that it is her classroom.

Miller, who graduated May 19 from Augustana College, is eagerly awaiting Aug. 8 when a lifelong dream comes true and she officially becomes a teacher.

A teacher, Miller says, has a simple job but one with far-reaching consequences.

“You teach them how to get along, how to learn from each other and you love them,” she says. “I’m supposed to be a teacher, to make America and the rest of South Dakota better. Maybe it’s only one student in 30 years of teaching, but it’s one student.”

I’m willing to make this prediction today: Miller will touch more than one student in her teaching career.

Sharon Andrews, her academic adviser at Augustana, also is sure of that.

“She’s such a balanced person,” Andrews says. “She’s a person who isn’t afraid to chase after her dreams. She’s done a lot of pretty phenomenal things. She’s very driven, very self-motivated. She perseveres and sees things through.”

Miller was one of five seniors to receive a Covenant Award from Augustana, hers in the area of service. Her sophomore year, she organized the “For All Who Are Thirsty” water project, which raised $3,000.

She has worked with children from limited resources in Sioux Falls, Slovakia and Tanzania. In 2010, she was named one of two Augustana Peace Prize Forum Scholars and spent two months at the University of Oslo studying causes of armed conflicts, peace-building, peacemaking, humanitarian interventions and aid, and nonviolent peace movements.

That led her to a project that examined human trafficking in South Dakota. Along with a friend she met four years ago while on a plane trip and several members of Be Free, a local nonprofit committed to ending human slavery and sex trafficking, she attended the Sturgis Rally.

She put on a rhinestone-encrusted black T-shirt and black bandanna for her undercover role but forgot to pack anything but a pair of hiking sandals.

Most of her project involved listening to others talk, using the information she picked up from those casual conversations to gauge the problem’s depth.

And there is a problem, she says, careful to point out the distinction between those who attend the rally for fellowship and those who have other, darker purposes.

Miller plans to return to Sturgis this August, but much of her focus now is on that first-time experience in the classroom. She will teach fourth-graders and says she has received a warm welcome from her future co-workers and principal.

Originally she hoped to teach in Colorado and applied to more than 25 schools there. Miller is not disappointed, however, to remain in South Dakota. This coming year, she points out, will be the longest time she has remained in one place in four years.

She is reading blogs written by other fourth-grade teachers, planning her bulletin boards and anxiously awaiting the day next week she can walk into her own classroom. New-teacher orientation begins Aug. 8.

“This dream I had for so long is finally becoming a reality,” Miller says.

“Granted, I’m as scared as I’ve ever been, but I think it’s a good scared.”