Looking back after three decades in the classroom

Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Article Image Alt Text

After 30 years Kim Miller is retiring to her family and six grandchildren.

Photo by Miriam Campan

Retiring this year, Lewistown’s Kim Miller has been teaching for about 30 years, she said, including part-time and substitute teaching. Miller retires at the end of this month from Lewistown Junior High.

Thirty years is a long time for any career; however teaching was not Miller’s first priority originally. 

“I started out in finance in college. I was interested in the stock exchange. I went there once and there was a lot of energy,” said Miller.

But after a short hiatus from college and various jobs, Miller said, “I got the [teaching] bug and decided to do it.”

And do it she did…three decades worth. That’s a lot of teaching experience.

Junior High School Principal Scott Dubbs said, “Kim had already seen kids of all ages when she moved to the Junior High School.”

Miller said of her early teaching career, “I’ve taught from preschool to eighth grade. I was running Small Wonder. I just wanted to teach pre-school.” 

But then she got interested in older students.

“Then I taught full-time elementary -- first grade, fourth grade, a couple of years in a combination fourth and fifth grade, and then fifth and sixth grades. I have been at the Junior High since 2004,” Miller explained.


The changing face of education

Of course, much has changed over the course of Miller’s time at the front of the classroom, not the least of which is the impact of technology on teaching and learning.

“Technology has been a huge game changer,” Miller said. “It can enhance the learning experience. But it has also made some aspects more difficult. I’d say information that students get [about a subject] is not as deep as it used to be because everything moves so fast now.”

Miller also thinks community expectations have changed, too.

“The way society expects students to learn can make it more difficult,” she said. “And if the parents are not involved in their child’s education, it is really to the detriment of that child. I know it sounds trite, but it really does take a village – the family, the school and the community.”

If there are challenges, Miller seems to have the right approach to overcoming them, at least according to her current charges.

Remington Cattaneo, one of Miller’s eighth grade students this year, said, “She has excellent teaching structure. Mrs. Miller brought out a love of poetry, writing and creativity in me this school year. She makes the year fun and interesting.”

Jasper Fairchild agrees.

“Mrs. Miller is one of the stricter teachers, but fair. She lets me use my imagination. I have her for homeroom also. We discuss books that I am reading, because she has read most of them,” Jasper said.

One teacher’s strictness is another teacher’s proven teaching method.

 “We allow kids to give up too easily. We need to teach determination and tenacity more than we need to teach them skills,” she explained.

After 30 years, Miller has developed plenty of her own skills; skills she has shared with her daughter. 

“My oldest daughter teaches at the high school,” she said.


What’s next?

After 30 years steeped in education, Miller’s after-retirement plans are more about family and relaxation. 

“I am just going to take a moment and spend more time with family. I do have six grandchildren and my husband Tom is pretty busy, so I’ll help him,” she said.

When asked what advice a 30-year teaching veteran might give to future and current teachers Miller said, “Sometimes in education it’s hard to tell the impact you have. But when students come back and tell you that you were influential, even if it didn’t seem at the time like you were making a difference, you really did.”


District retirees

Kim Miller is not the only teacher in the Lewistown district who is celebrating retirement this year. The other teachers retiring are Jill Reed (Lewis and Clark), DeeAnn Buehler (Lewis and Clark; Highland Park) and Holly Heser (Fergus High School).



Lewistown currently has a population of about 6,000 people. What do you think is the ideal population level for Lewistown?