We’re excited to introduce Nuria Miller, who joined our team as a Spanish teacher in fall 2021! Besides teaching Spanish 1, 2, and 3, Ms. Miller shares a 9th grade guidance group with French teacher Madame Anoh, and has stepped up to lead our yearbook and a crafting after-school program. She’s a native of Mexico, who lives with her husband, mom, 4 kids, and 2 cats in Guilford.
This fall, you’ve showed up with huge amounts of Día de los Muertos cake, and tamales, to share with students and colleagues. It’s so sweet!
It’s one of the things I love about teaching – it’s about sharing part of my culture. I can share part of where I’m from.
I am a language lover as well. In college, my friends and I decided we wanted to go backpacking in Europe. I try to practice French with Madame Anoh and Mr. Sekou. I studied Italian as well.
Not all students understand the value of learning another language. It broadens your horizons. I tell students, look, if I hadn’t been willing to learn another language, I wouldn’t have been able to meet my husband! You never know where you’re going to end up, and language gives you an entry point.
What’s the path that brought you to CG?
I’ve been a Spanish teacher since 2006. I started by chance. A family friend was working at Branford High School, and let me know they had an immediate need for a Spanish teacher. I had been a substitute before. Once I told them that I was from Mexico, and that Spanish is my first language, they asked if I could start right away.
I was just thrown into the classroom, but I had a great experience. The team was really welcoming, and I worked with a mentor teacher. I love to do projects, and make a lot of cultural connections in my classes, and I was able to do that.
From there I went to teach at the Wightwood school, a private school in Branford. I was happy there. Education was really hands on. We could do a lot of stuff outside – planting potatoes, helping with maple syruping. You were free to create experiences for your students. I really like that type of environment.
When I had my second kid, I took a year off to be with him. But I know I wanted to return to a classroom, so I did an intensive certification program. I was really lucky: My mom moved in and took care of my kids, so that I could focus on getting certified.
I went back to teach at a large public high school, but it wasn’t the same. When the pandemic happened, I decided to stay home with my family. I have 4 kids – the youngest is now 4 – and my mom stayed with us.
Why is Common Ground a good match for you?
This past summer, I was ready to return to teaching, and I found this opportunity. I had heard great things about Common Ground – colleagues had come here for programs for younger kids – but I honestly didn’t know there was a high school here. When I drove to campus, it felt like I was on vacation, seeing the garden, the mountains. I know we’re not on vacation – but the place feels special!
I value that we have more freedom to design our curriculum. You can think about what you want to do, and bring it to life. I can immerse students in cultural activities, at the same time that I teach them the language. We can do project-based learning. I am excited to cook with the students, eat together. In my Spanish 3 class – which includes native and non-native speakers, I’m excited to create realistic fiction – pretending we are going on a trip, researching places, creating brochures. With Spanish 2, they need to learn reflexive verbs – which can be boring, but if you’re learning it within the context of a project, it suddenly becomes much more meaningful.
Sometimes I dream too big! But you need to give yourself to what you’re doing, in a way that makes you happy. I am a perfectionist – when I create something for my students, I want it to look perfect. I like to put my whole self into everything.
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