Alumna Stephanie Miller (Class of 2006) never dreamed she would be a teacher when she was a Gateway School elementary student. She remembers struggling in all of her subjects. She credits Gateway’s Resource Support Coordinator Joan Saia for being the person who taught her how to read and to become an engaged student.
“Joan is dear to my heart. She took the time to work with me many times a week for several years and reached that part of me that wanted to learn, that quite frankly, I didn’t know was there because I struggled so much.”
Stephanie graduated from Santa Catalina High School in Monterey and earned her Bachelor’s degree in History from Santa Clara University in 2010. After college Stephanie was involved in special education in the Hawaii public school system until 2014 when she moved back to the Bay Area to teach 4th and 5th-grade humanities at a Title 1 school in East San Jose. 95% of her students were English language learners and were struggling to learn how to read English. Stephanie could empathize with her struggling students and applied many of the same methods Joan did when reaching Stephanie all those years ago.
Stephanie clearly remembers one thrilling moment when one of her students read a complete sentence out loud for the first time in a small guided reading group. She said the look of accomplishment on his face was amazing. He was nervous, but not scared, and his excitement at achieving his goal was invigorating to Stephanie as well as to the other students.
Last year Stephanie was looking for a new challenge. She accepted a position as a 5th-grade math teacher at the Charter School of Morgan Hill (CSMH) though math was Stephanie’s least favorite subject when she was a young student.
“I struggled in ALL school subjects when I was a young child, and math just happened to be my least favorite. But nothing in school came easy for me. Joan Saia taught me how to read, and how to be a better student in all subjects. And that’s where the other Gateway teachers dovetailed with Joan’s efforts and taught me that all learning could be fun, even areas that were extra challenging, like math. And it’s because of my unique learning challenges, and the dedication of all the Gateway teachers who helped me, that I can now teach other children how to learn.”
Stephanie’s most poignant Gateway memory was the 8th grade trip to Washington, DC. Her class was the first 8th-grade class to go on the DC trip, so it was very special. She distinctly remembers her classmates’ reactions at the Holocaust Museum, and how the experience brought them even closer together as a class.
Her favorite memories from Gateway are times spent with former classmates and their families. She still sees many of them to this day, and also has enduring relationships with many of her Gateway teachers. Stephanie says that she takes the Gateway community with her into every experience she has as an adult.
In the spirit of giving back, Stephanie is currently serving as a Gateway School Trustee. She has been on the board for three years and is a key link to the alumni community.
Thank you, Stephanie, for passing along your love of learning to future generations, for reaching struggling learners, for acting with grace, and for advocating for those who need extra help.