Media specialist believes the primary role of her job is to create a climate that encourages and engages students “to want to read, to learn.”
Denise Miller was a student teacher at Northwest Classen High School in the mid-1970s.
Miller is still there, having long held the position of what is now called a media specialist but for years was known as a librarian.
Despite the decades of service, Miller, 62, reaches only a short distance in time to explain why she’s embraced what is much more to her than an occupation.
“A few weeks ago I had a freshman student who wanted a ‘good’ book to read,” Miller said. “We talked about his interests, the types of books and authors he had read and liked. I recommended a new series of books by Darren Shan. He checked out a few of the series.”
When the student returned the books, he shared his experience of reading. He told Miller he was having trouble sleeping, and that he remembered the book he had checked out. So, he started reading.
“When he was three-quarters of the way through, he realized it was after midnight,” Miller said. “He thanked me, and checked out more books to read. As I think back about this experience he shared with me, I truly believe he has gained a love of reading that will follow him for the rest of this life.”
This is Miller’s last semester as she prepares for retirement.
Northwest Classen Principal Brad Herzer said Miller is “a valuable part of Northwest Classen and will be truly missed.”
“She has seen a lot of changes in her 39 years at Northwest Classen High School,” Herzer said. “Mrs. Miller has taken on a lot of extra responsibility outside of her duties as the media specialist.”
She is the ACT testing coordinator and has been responsible for scheduling the benchmark testing for the last two years.
“She works every day after school allowing students the opportunity to make up missing time and is always willing the help out in other areas,” Herzer said. “She has seen the changes that have occurred at Northwest Classen over her 39 years and has been able to adapt to those changes easily.
“The reason that she has been able to easily adapt to these changes is because she is truly cares about the students and staff at Northwest Classen.”
Miller’s love of reading
Miller was born and raised in Oklahoma City and was one of six children in her family.
After her first semester in college, Miller was undecided what to do. Her mother suggested going into Library Science, “because of my love of reading.”
Today, Miller continues to love to read - mysteries, historical fiction and biographies.
Her favorite books are “The Secret Garden” and “Little Women.”
Miller firmly believes “Reading broadens your mind and knowledge.”
“I have noticed that people who regularly read are much more likely to be engaged civically and culturally,” she said. “In order to succeed in life, you must be able to read: tax forms, job applications, recipes…Reading is an essential life skill.”
Reading provides the reader a perspective, she said.
“Reading a book—much like listening to a song, or watching a movie—can be a way to relive past experiences and gain new perspective,” Miller said. “Reading also helps relieve stress. When you read, it transports you and your worried mind to another place, so you won’t feel so overwhelmed with the hardships of everyday life.”
Through the years
After completing her student teaching, one of the media specialists at Northwest Classen retired. Miller interviewed for the job, and was hired “with the approval of the personnel director, Carl Ruble, who had been my elementary principal.”
“Through the years I have been so privileged to meet and work with many wonderful students, parents, teachers, and administrators,” Miller said. “I love the diversity of students that we have here at Northwest Classen. I also feel a deep commitment to the community in which I grew up.”
Miller believes the primary role of her job is to create a climate that encourages and engages students “to want to read, to learn.”
She said it is also important to teach students to use information to deepen their critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.
“I wear many hats: a teacher, an instructional partner, and an information specialist,” Miller said. “My responsibilities include keeping materials and resources updated both electronically and in print to meet the curriculum needs of teachers and students; helping students to be information literate; also, keeping current with technology trends that are constantly changing.”
Miller was asked what she considers to be among the blessings the job provides.
“NWC students keep me grounded,” Miller said. “Our students are amazing young people. They face so many obstacles and challenges every day just to survive. Many work to feed families or just to support themselves. Yet they come to school daily ready to learn.
“They know without their high school diploma they have a bleak future. They inspire me. They serve as constant reminder to me daily how blessed I am.”