Congratulations to Otsego technology teacher, Michael Miller, who was named the Educator of the Year at the annual Otsego/Plainwell Chamber of Commerce dinner on March 30, 2017. “I’m humbled and honored to have Otsego think of me in such a high regard,” Miller says.
"Michael is very deserving of this award. He is always looking for opportunities to impact students and staff with STEM or STEAM activities," says Supt. Jeff Haase. "It's great to see the student engagement along with the exposure to future career-related opportunities."
Miller started at Otsego schools in the fall of 2012 after spending 9 years at Galesburg and one year at Marshall. He’s a 1994 Otsego graduate. His initial goal after high school was not to go into education; he majored in business. But after a couple of years, he says something was missing, “I wanted to do something more.” He got his teaching degree from Western Michigan University and knew that he would eventually like to get back into the Otsego school district, “I have a tremendous respect for the community and the things we do within the community and within the schools for our students. Otsego does a lot of really good things. We have a lot of great things, and great programs.”
He started as an elementary technology teacher but, this year, added high school teacher to his resume. He is one of two teachers to kick off a new Computer Sciences course at OHS where students develop apps, learn 3D design and programming. His first-year 5th graders are now in his high school course, “I have a love for Otsego and a passion for helping all kids whether it’s kindergarten or high school. I’m very fortunate from that side of it that I get to see kids as they come into school and now graduate. That’s pretty unique and I like getting to do that.”
As a teacher, he was an integral part in changing the technology curriculum. He helped develop the Lego Lab at Alamo Elementary when the district received a $25,000 grant for that in 2014. It was also in 2014 that he applied for, and received, a grant from the Otsego Public Schools Foundation to purchase a 3D printer for each of the elementary schools, “I think it created an awareness of what was there and what was available.” His timing couldn’t have been better; at that time that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) education were ramping up as a trend in education so he was able to bring in more design, project-based learning and other skills such as communication, problem-solving and teamwork into technology class.
He’s taken that technology class and kicked it up a notch in his after-school robotics clubs. He started a 4th & 5th grade Lego Robotics Club where they create EV3 robots and learn how to program them to complete different tasks on a game board, very similar to the FIRST Robotics challenges that students will encounter in middle and high school. Miller also started a Junior Lego Robotics club for 1st-3rd graders where they make Lego cars and race them, experimenting with different add-ons and power sources like balloons to see what will make them go faster. There are about 100 kids in the 4th & 5th grade club and more than 200 in the Junior club, a source of pride for Miller, “I am proudest of giving kids opportunities that maybe they wouldn’t get exposed to without robotics. We’re building a great foundation with our younger kids and now with high school, with the computer science course, it’s continuing throughout their education.”
He also took on the role as lead mentor this year for the high school FIRST Robotics team. Our students recently won the award for Image and Design for their robot and did a great job at competition going head to head with some big schools.
Miller provides great opportunities for students, but is a student himself. Each year, his job takes new turns because technology is always changing, “I’m having a lot of fun and I’m learning. That’s one thing I like best about my job is that I’m still learning. I’m very fortunate that our administrators believe in what I’m doing. I’m just trying to make a difference and have fun. I’m energized each day by the students.”
He’s very busy and his love for kids and Otsego is what keeps him so involved. He wants to thank his wife, Kolene, for her support and his parents, for helping with their three kids. “Without them, I couldn’t do all of this; they’re always supporting me.”
Miller has been the recipient of the Outstanding People for Education award in 2015, the Kalamazoo Air Zoo, Educator Hall of Fame Innovation award in 2016, the PBS Digital Innovator award in 2016 and the MASB Excellence in Education grant and award for “Lego Lab & Beyond” in 2016.
He has served on the Autodesk Teacher Advisory Committee from 2015-present, was a
MACUL Mobile Conference featured speaker, 2016 and spoke at different schools in California for CUE (Computer Using Educators). He is also a regular conference presenter at MACUL, which is Michigan’s association for teachers and technology.