Challenging the Status Quo
Michal Knappenberger Miller, a 2011 graduate of Ball State's Teachers College, is starting her career with an impressive resume that includes unique immersive learning experiences.

"I was able to discover hands-on learning through what I experienced as part of these immersive learning projects. The courses available to me through the Teachers College have helped shape me, my beliefs, and my teaching style in a way that will help me be conscious of students and student needs," says Miller, who is teaching first grade in her native Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Connecting with Community

In addition to her academic work, Miller was active in campus life at Ball State, serving as co-president of Kappa Delta Pi International Education Honors Society and volunteering at the Roy C. Buley Center in Muncie, Indiana.

The Buley Center was the site of one of her most involved immersive learning experiences. As part of a partnership between Buley and Longfellow Elementary School, Miller joined other students in Schools within the Context of Community in helping to create community events, raising money for the school and center as well as tutoring students in after-school programs. Patricia Clark, an elementary education professor, says Miller's passion for working with children—not to mention her ability to connect with the community—was evident during her semester with the project.

"Michal's passion for working with children and families led her to go above and beyond what was required during the immersive semester. Throughout the semester, she raised questions and challenged her peers and the faculty to consider what is best for children and how communities can support families," says Clark, noting that Miller's assistance was crucial in planning a Mom's Night Out charity event. The event was key in helping raise awareness about community needs, resulting in a $779,000 grant from the Indiana Department of Education. The money funds Muncie P3 (Promise, Potential, and Partnership), which includes after school, summer, and Saturday programs for children attending Longfellow Elementary.

Resilience

In addition to her commitment to Buley, Miller also made time in her three-year collegiate career for two other immersive learning projects. As part of one of those experiences, Partners in Preparedness, she found herself traveling to New Orleans, learning about resilient children and natural disasters. While there, she worked with kids in summer camps and learned about the effects of Hurricane Katrina.

"Although the evidence of Hurricane Katrina lingered in the city of New Orleans, the notion of success and survival was what stood out among the native people. They were kind to us and proud to be a part of the recovery of New Orleans. I left with the realization that through great storms come even greater people," she says.

In her final year at Ball State, Miller participated in her third immersive experience, the Urban Semester Program, working at Greenbriar Elementary School in Indianapolis, where she created a parent room, implemented community events, and learned more about ways to help students succeed.

Miller credits Clark for helping fuel her desire to become a great educator. "Dr. Clark was a professor who was always willing to discuss with me and help me better develop my ideas for community events and lesson plans. With Dr. Clark's wisdom, I was truly able to represent my educational philosophy of ensuring that all students are represented and are capable of succeeding in my classroom," she says.

Clark, who nominated Miller for the Outstanding Senior Award for the department, describes her former student as someone who "encourages students and faculty to question assumptions, challenge the status quo, and make a difference."

"Although the evidence of Hurricane Katrina lingered in the city of New Orleans, the notion of success and survival was what stood out among the native people. They were kind to us and proud to be a part of the recovery of New Orleans. I left with the realization that through great storms come even greater people."

—Michal Knappenberger Miller, '11