Stapp Inspires Educator Spotlight – A Field Guide

Welcome back to our monthly Educator Highlight Series. If this is your first time stopping by we hope you leave feeling inspired and encouraged by the stories we have the privilege to share with our community.

A little background, my name is Erin. I am the Digital Marketing Manager for Stapp Interstate Toyota. We are underway in our second year of meeting different, teachers, administrators, and support staff throughout St. Vrain Valley Schools. It’s been an incredible journey to meet these individuals who are helping to shape the next generation. The different backgrounds and paths they have taken to wind up at SVVSD are as unique and different as they are. This month’s recipient is no different! We would like to introduce you to Miki Mills. Miki is a Special Education teacher at Niwot High School. She has been at Niwot for the last 11 years. Before moving out to Colorado, she taught special education in the south suburbs of Chicago.



The first question I always ask someone is, “Why did you want to become a teacher?” This time my question was a bit different. I asked specifically what was the draw to special education. As the daughter of a special education teacher myself, I knew that it took someone with a certain drive and passion to fulfill this role. Miki’s answer was quite simple and familiar. “Well, I knew I wanted to teach and I knew I didn’t want to teach general education,” she said. Typically, when this question is answered, the person I interview tells a story of how a teacher inspired or encouraged them to pursue teaching as a career. Miki’s story is a little different. Miki wanted to find a way to avoid the gym teacher she didn’t get along with. Her high school offered opportunities to tutor for the Special Olympics, so she signed up and began teaching gross motor and sports skills to athletes.


Miki has worked with students across the spectrum, but the typical student she works with today is high-functioning and attending advanced placement or IB classes. The students she works with require support with the social-emotional aspects of school. When working with these students, it’s important to identify the traits of their disability, so the proper tools and skills are used to make that student successful. As Miki said, “The old way of trying to ‘fix it’ doesn’t work, and it shouldn’t work. These kids are who they are. I want to help them find success with who they are.”  


Over the years her view has changed on how she interacts with students. “If you listen to your students, they will clearly tell you what they need,” Miki remarked. She continued with, “A student once made a comment, “We know what to do. We just don’t know why we need to do it.” This comment has inspired Miki to look differently at the social skills she was teaching her students. How many times do you have to stop and think, “Do I shake this person’s hand? Or is appropriate to give them a hug or maybe a high five?” For most of us these are split second decisions and we never give what we are doing a second thought. Miki takes the time to break these types of social interactions down for her students and gives them tools to learn these skills.


Miki mentioned that she likes to hike in her free time. As our conversation went on, I thought it was a perfect metaphor for Miki and her students. Miki is confident, warm, compassionate,  funny and a lot of fun to be around. She is helping guide her students through a landscape that is foreign and unfamiliar to them. Like any good guide she has the experience to help her students through difficult terrain and know what each one of her students need. She sees the potential in each student to be successful on their own journey with the tools they have, and the ones they need. Miki is that encouraging force for her students that won’t give up on them, even when they feel that their journey is too long or difficult. She rejoices with her students when they tackle that skill for the first time and each time they improve themselves.


Miki thank you for your work and dedication to your students. It was a pleasure meeting with you, and we wish you all the success in the future.