Alum strikes the right chord as WYFF’s Teacher of the Year
Joshua Miller ’12 wasn’t expecting to learn who won the Golden Apple Teacher of the Year until a special broadcast on WYFF News 4 in early June.
He wasn’t surprised one morning in late May when his principal at Boiling Springs Middle School in Spartanburg County told him that a video crew from the station would be filming his orchestra class to get additional footage for that special broadcast.
But he was surprised after the cameras started rolling, when WYFF reporter Hannah Ward interrupted the class and presented Miller with a small gold apple statuette – along with the news that he was this year’s winner.
“I have no words,” Miller laughed as Ward embraced him and his students applauded.
Golden Apple Award nominations were open to educators from the South Carolina Upstate and western North Carolina. Miller was nominated by the grandmother of one of his students, he said.
Originally featured in March as one of 30 weekly Golden Apple winners, Miller became one of five finalists selected by a panel of judges. As Teacher of the Year, Miller received a gift card from contest sponsor Ingles Markets along with the apple statuette.
In the earlier segment that introduced Miller as a weekly winner in March, Ward praised the teacher’s ability to spark a passion for orchestral music in sixth, seventh and eighth graders. Miller makes sure his musicians know their technique – “I’m a stickler for fundamentals,” he said – but he also encourages them to envision the story, characters and emotions suggested by the melodies.
“You as the musician should always be doing more than just playing the notes on the page,” he said. “You should always be communicating something with your audience. I feel a certain way when I play, and so I should be making sure that the audience feels the same thing. Getting the students to think outside the technique is the most rewarding part. We get to go past the fundamentals and actually start making music.”
A Spartanburg, South Carolina, native, Miller graduated from Furman with a bachelor of music degree in music education – although he originally wanted to be a dentist, he said.
“But then I got immersed in the music department, and I started doing some work with youth groups over the summer,” he said. “The marriage of the two things was the perfect combination.”
It has been “a rocky couple of years for most of us in public education,” Miller admitted, and his Golden Apple award was well-timed.
“I had been talking with my wife and trying to figure out if teaching is where I want to be for the next 20 years of my life,” he said. “And I was appreciative not just for the award itself, but also the recognition and validation that came along with it. It was just the sort of affirmation that I needed to know that this is probably where I’m supposed to be, at least for now.”