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Bokeelia resident honored for work in classroom

By Staff | Jan 22, 2020

George Miller built a 33-year career teaching high school students mathematics. Since the spring of 2005, however, fifth-graders have taken a place beside him at Pine Island Elementary. His hard work has not gone unnoticed, as he has been named School District of Lee County’s Volunteer of the Year, and will receive his award Jan. 28.

Miller has lived in Bokeelia full time since 2000. He said whenever he sees students whom he’s worked with achieving their goals later on, it makes him very happy, though he admits he doesn’t have the same involvement as a volunteer that a classroom teacher has.

“Whenever a student comes back and tells you they did something with what you taught them, or maybe they decided to major in mathematics, well that makes any teacher happy,” said Miller.

Pine Island Elementary is not the only lucky recipient of Miller’s time, as he also volunteers for the Beacon of Hope’s GED program, and is on the board as well. He especially likes helping fifth-graders, as he said it’s a wonderful opportunity to help students at a time when they are just realizing they like math, and if they have difficulty with the subject, he gets to intervene a bit. Although he said he’s very grateful to receive the honor of being named Lee County’s Volunteer of the Year, he’s simply doing what comes naturally.

“I’m a little embarrassed,” said Miller. “I volunteer because I love doing what I’m doing. I admire people who volunteer to do jobs that are not fun to do, but need to be done.”

According to Miller, having the time to give is just as important as having a valuable contribution to make, as is true of any volunteer position. He said he’s delighted to have reached a time in his life that’s allowed him to offer something he’s good at to others and said he loves the interaction with the kids at school.

“This is everything I loved about teaching, without the things I didn’t like,” said Miller, speaking on the differences between teaching high school and volunteering to teach young children. “I don’t have all the minutia that teachers have to go through.”

Miller also noted that in his experience, young children are a bit different than high school students. The older students are more abstract, in his opinion, and he has found with the younger kids he has to be careful that his enthusiasm doesn’t intimidate them. Miller said he tends to be Socratic in his teaching method, explaining that he’d rather allow the students to find a way to do something through an open-ended dialogue, rather than simply giving them a correct answer. Miller tries to arrange his schedule to be available when he’s needed, as he can spend as much as three to five hours a day helping young students reach their academic goals. He admits he may be guilty of over-teaching, but said he would rather spend more time going over problems and working with students. He credits one of his own mathematics teachers with having been a wonderful influence, saying he himself was both energetic and committed, with a love for math. Overall Miller said he feels very fortunate to be at Pine Island Elementary School, which he describes as an excellent school that’s highly supported by the community. The feeling seems to be mutual as the staff is happy to have him aboard.

“Mr. Miller has been volunteering at our school for many years and I know students request to work with him,” said Melinda Sue Nelson, Intervention Specialist at Pine Island Elementary. “He loves math and it’s so fun to have him share that love with them. When a kid says, I want you to help me and they’re excited about it it’s just a great thing. We and the community are blessed to have him.”