Friday, May 2, 2014
Music is such a passion for Waccamaw Intermediate School teacher Bethany Stearns-Miller, it not only led her to find a husband with the same ambition – it helped her become one of the five finalists for the 2014 Georgetown County Teacher of the Year.
Stearns-Miller has been teaching at WIS since it opened six years ago. She previously taught in Illinois and Indiana.
Everything she has taught during her 11-year career has centered around music, whether it be band, choir, steel drum band, classroom music.
Stearns-Miller said she has had a love for music her entire life but it was a band director she had in high school – Buddy Rogers – who inspired her to make it a career.
“Both he and I knew I would not be happy being anything other than a musician,” she said.
So, Stearns-Miller enrolled at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale where she earned bachelor’s degrees in music education and music performance.
That is also where she met her husband, Chris Miller - the band director at Georgetown High School.
She later received her master of clarinet performance and pedagogy degree from Northern Illinois University.
After leaving Indiana 12 years ago – and before being hired at WIS – Stearns-Miller was an adjutant professor in the music department at Coastal Carolina University.
She said her goal as a teacher to her fourth- through sixt-h grade students is to “give to them the same experiences my music teachers gave to me.”
Stearns-Miller not only teaches in the classroom. She gives her students a chance to show off their talents several times a year.
“Each year each grade level does their own musical production. It gives us a chance to make music for the community. It’s a once in a lifetime experience for many of the students,” she said. “But for some, it leads to a career.”
Stearns-Miller said the age groups she teaches are a “perfect combination” because they are “starting to unlock their musical talents.”
The couple’s 13-year-old daughter, Hannah, is following in the footsteps of her parents. She is in the choir in the district’s summer BEACH program and plays trumpet.
When she is not teaching, Stearns-Miller can be seen playing the clarinet on the stage as a part of the Long Bay Symphony, something she has been doing for 11 years. She also plays piano, flute, saxophone and sings.
Stearns-Miller says there are numerous educators in Georgetown County who would make a great teacher of the year.
“To be considered among them is a priviledge,” she said.
The county’s Teacher of the Year winner will be announced at a banquet tonight.