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Meet Janell Miller ‘20MS: ‘I Chose Education to Help Inspire Young Students Who Look Like Me and Who Need Support and Guidance’

Janell Miller with her family

This is part of a series of profiles on students who are graduating in December 2020.

There was no question when Janell Miller ‘20MS relocated to Raleigh, where she would pursue her advanced degree. Having earned her bachelor’s degree from NC State, she knew the College of Education was the perfect fit for embarking on her new adventure.

As an English teacher at Southeast Raleigh High School, Miller has always enjoyed curriculum development, which inspired her to pursue a Master of Science in curriculum and instruction with a concentration in curriculum and development supervision — one of her greatest strengths and interests in education. Her thesis was on student engagement and cooperative learning in the high school English classroom; research she hopes to continue as a doctoral student.

Learn more about Janell Miller.

Hometown: New Brunswick, New Jersey

Area of Study: Curriculum and Instruction: Curriculum and Development Supervision

Activities/Interests: I enjoy all things art — I like to sing, dance, draw, write (poetry), etc. I love to read. I also love a good movie or series; I really enjoy shows that make me think or stay with me for a while after I’ve watched them. I love animals — I have a dog and a cat. I like to go on family walks with my husband, Houston Alexander, and my children, Dominic (6) and Giselle Alexander (5), and I like to jump on the trampoline with them. When the world is open, I enjoy going on little family adventures.

Why did you choose the NC State College of Education?

The NC College of Education has a near and dear place in my heart. My relationship with the college began in 2009 when I entered NC State as a first-generation college student. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience as an undergraduate. I felt supported and I was able to build long-lasting relationships with peers and professors alike. When I relocated to Raleigh in 2018, I knew that the NC State College of Education would be perfect for me and my family as I embarked on this new journey and made the decision to further my education.

Why did you choose your area of study?

I have been a high school English teacher for the past seven years. I have always enjoyed lesson planning and participating in curriculum development. I love thinking of new and engaging ways to help students become active participants in their education. I chose curriculum and instruction because it is one my greatest strengths and interests in education.

What’s your next step? What do you have planned after graduation?

My next step is to complete a Ph.D. in Teacher Education and Learning Sciences, specifically the literacy and English Language Arts education (LELA) program at NC State.

How has the College of Education prepared you for that next step?

Through courses like ED 730, ECI 524 and ECI 523, I was introduced to and able to participate in educational research. These courses really inspired me to want to continue my educational pursuits. Additionally, the college has connected me with great mentors like Dr. [Carl] Young, Dr. [John] Lee, and Dr. [Erin] Horne, who have supported and inspired me to continue this journey.

As a current teacher in Wake County, how has your program influenced your career and helped you become a better educator?

I have learned more from my program than any other resources or educational experiences I have had. My program helped me become a more thoughtful and reflective practitioner. My program provided me with knowledge of best practices in education as well as strategies I could use immediately within my own classroom. Classes like ECI 511 and ECI 541 allowed me to create and use lessons for my own classroom and provided me with space and opportunity to improve how I deliver content and curriculum!

Do you have a favorite memory from your time in the College of Education?

My favorite memory was working on the research project for ED 730. I loved this experience because it really highlighted my interest in educational research. I was able to connect with so many women with similar experiences and I was able to learn so much from them!

Tell us about an experience you had with the College of Education that had the biggest impact on you or your career.

One experience that had the biggest impact on my career was completing my first grant application. Under the mentorship of Dr. Young, I applied for a teacher research grant through the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and my application was selected for the grant. I used this grant as a pilot study to help propel my thesis research forward.

Tell me about your thesis. What inspired that research interest?

My thesis was born in ECI 523. My thesis focused on cooperative learning in the high school English classroom. In my early teaching career I was very averse to assigning small group work; it just never seemed to happen the way I wanted it to. However, all of the research on cooperation and the associated student outcomes really made me wonder how I could effectively use this strategy in my classroom. I wanted to build a learning community in my classroom. I wanted my students to appreciate and learn from one another. I chose to explore cooperation to build my students’ achievement, prosocial and soft skills to better prepare them for life after high school and to improve their peer interactions within the classroom.

Why did you choose education?

I chose education because I believe in its power to change the world and to change our circumstances. I absolutely love learning. I am a first-generation college student and I know firsthand that students can use education to escape generational poverty and to create opportunities for themselves. I chose education to help inspire young students who look like me and who need support and guidance. I chose education to help inspire and transform the lives of young people!