Wal­dorf teen wins gold in na­tional skills com­pe­ti­tion

North Point grad earns top hon­ors in early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com

North Point High School grad­u­ate Maria Miller put her knowl­edge and love of early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion on the na­tional stage last month, be­com­ing one of six Mary­land stu­dents to win a gold medal in the Skills-USA na­tional com­pe­ti­tion.

When they called the

win­ners for bronze and sil­ver, Miller, 18, a re­cent grad­u­ate of North Point High School, said she as­sumed she didn’t place, but when they called her name for gold, Miller said she was “floored.”

“You know that feel­ing on a roller­coaster when you first go down the hill? That’s what I felt like,” the Wal­dorf teen said.

Melissa Palmer, one of Miller’s ed­u­ca­tion teach­ers at North Point, said the pro­gram has com­peted at the na­tional level in Skill­sUSA for the past five years, but this was a first gold medal.

“Know­ing what she does at school, and know­ing her per­son­al­ity, I knew she was go­ing to do re­ally well, and thought she would be in the top 10, prob­a­bly top 5, so it was very ex­cit­ing to hear her name called for gold, and she cer­tainly de­served it,” Palmer said.

Skill­sUSA is a na­tional non­profit stu­dent or­ga­ni­za­tion that pro­motes and en­cour­ages ca­reer and tech­ni­cal ed­u­ca­tion. Its mis­sion is “to em­power mem­bers to be­come world-class work­ers, lead­ers and re­spon­si­ble Amer­i­can ci­ti­zens,” ac­cord­ing to the Skill­sUSA web­site.

From June 19-24, ap­prox­i­mately 6,500 state Skill­sUSA con­test win­ners — from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Vir­gin Is­lands — com­peted in the Skill­sUSA Cham­pi­onships in 87 dif­fer­ent trade, tech­ni­cal or lead­er­ship fields at its Na­tional Lead­er­ship and Skills Con­fer­ence in Louisville, Ky.

Con­tests are run with the help of in­dus­try, trade as­so­ci­a­tions and la­bor or­ga­ni­za­tions, and test com­pe­ten­cies are set by each in­dus­try, ac­cord­ing to the Skill­sUSA web­site.

Miller was only one of three stu­dents from Charles County to score in the top 10 in their divi­sion.

Carl Wa­chowski of North Point High School won a bronze medal in the med­i­cal ter­mi­nol­ogy com­pe­ti­tion and Michelle Young, also a stu­dent at North Point, won sev­enth place in the ad­ver­tis­ing de­sign com­pe­ti­tion.

Miller said she’s al­ways wanted to be a teacher, for as long as she can re­mem­ber.

“When you’re lit­tle, that’s one of the first jobs you hear about — a doc­tor, a den­tist and a teacher,” Miller said. “I’ve al­ways thought it was an awe­some way to reach out to fu­ture generations.”

Miller said she has a par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion.

“You get to de­velop that foun­da­tion for chil­dren and de­velop the love for learn­ing that they’re go­ing to use through­out their ed­u­ca­tional ca­reer, and I think that is re­ally awe­some,” Miller said.

Miller ap­plied to the ed­u­ca­tion ca­reers pro­gram at North Point, part of the school’s Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy and In­dus­try (STI) pro­gram.

She said she joined the school’s Skill­sUSA group but never com­peted un­til her se­nior year, when her teach­ers en­cour­aged her to com­pete.

“I thought that she had what it took; I also thought it would be a re­ally good ex­pe­ri­ence for her,” Palmer said. “Over the course of my years teach­ing, you some­times see that spark in some stu­dents who have that nat­u­ral tal­ent that you can’t teach. I can teach them the sci­ence be­hind teach­ing, but they have to come with that in­nate qual­ity, and that was some­thing that was ev­i­dent in Maria even as a sopho­more.”

In or­der to com­pete in Skill­sUSA, stu­dents must first place in their re­gional and state com­pe­ti­tions. Miller, in her first year of com­pet­ing, took first place in both the re­gional and the state com­pe­ti­tions.

“I just wanted to do the best I could and rep­re­sent my school well,” Miller said.

In the Early Child­hood Ed­u­ca­tion com­pe­ti­tion, stu­dents must demon­strate their knowl­edge of de­vel­op­men­tally ap­pro­pri­ate prac­tice and their abil­ity to de­sign and im­ple­ment learn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties for chil­dren ages 3 to 5, by pre­par­ing a writ­ten les­son plan and tak­ing a writ­ten test that as­sesses their knowl­edge of child de­vel­op­ment and ef­fec­tive teach­ing strate­gies, ac­cord­ing to the Skill­sUSA web­site.

“For na­tion­als, I had three hours to pre­pare a les­son plan, cre­ate all of my ma­te­ri­als, mem­o­rize my les­son plan,” Miller said.

She was also in­ter­viewed be­fore a panel of judges on her knowl­edge of teach­ing be­fore hav­ing to go teach her les­son to an imag­i­nary class of stu­dents, rep­re­sented by dolls, in front of a panel of judges.

“You have to do it just like you would in a real class­room, you have to give wait time for the imag­i­nary chil­dren to an­swer ques­tions,” Miller said. “There’s a lot of act­ing in­volved, but it’s pretty ex­cit­ing.”

Judges also ques­tioned her on how she would re­act to a given sce­nario, and later, she read a story to an­other group of imag­i­nary stu­dents be­fore a panel of judges.

“You have to do just like you would teach,” Miller said. “You have to an­swer ques­tions, give the au­thor and il­lus­tra­tor, ask ques­tions dur­ing your read­ing, use dif­fer­ent voices, just as you would in front of real chil­dren,” Miller said.

De­spite sweep­ing the re­gional and state com­pe­ti­tions, Miller was sur­prised to win gold at the na­tional level.

“I did not think I was go­ing to win first, I was re­ally ner­vous,” Miller said. “I felt con­fi­dent, but I still didn’t know if I could win first.”

Her mother, Suzie Miller, said Maria has al­ways had a pas­sion for work­ing with younger chil­dren.

“Chil­dren nat­u­rally grav­i­tate to her, she has this aura about her, this pa­tience with chil­dren,” Suzie Miller said. “I tell every­body that I knew she was go­ing to win the gold medal ... there was no doubt in my mind.”

Miller has been ac­cepted to Tow­son Univer­sity where she plans to dou­ble ma­jor in early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion and spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion in the fall, with even­tual plans to go into teach­ing.

“Maria is that stu­dent who, if we are lucky, we will get her back as a teacher in Charles County, and her fu­ture stu­dents will be very, very lucky to have her,” Palmer said. “She is ab­so­lutely a born teacher.”


Maria Miller, 18, a North Point High School grad­u­ate from Wal­dorf, won the gold medal in Early Child­hood Ed­u­ca­tion at the Na­tional Skill­sUSA com­pe­ti­tion held last month in Louisville, Ky.


Wal­dorf res­i­dent Maria Miller, 18, a re­cent grad­u­ate of North Point High School, holds up her gift bas­ket of ed­u­ca­tional ma­te­ri­als af­ter win­ning the gold medal in the na­tional Skill­sUSA com­pe­ti­tion held June 19-23 in Louisville, Ky.


North Point High School ed­u­ca­tion in­struc­tor Melissa Palmer with her for­mer stu­dent, re­cent grad­u­ate Maria Miller, 18, of Wal­dorf. Miller won the gold medal in Early Child­hood Ed­u­ca­tion at the na­tional Skill­sUSA com­pe­ti­tion, held June 19-23 in Louisville, Ky.

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