Best Teacher, 9-12: Monica Mills, The Peak School |

Best Teacher, 9-12: Monica Mills, The Peak School

Monica Mills poses for a photo outside The Peak School on Sept. 16.
Lindsey Toomer/Summit Daily News

Monica Mills never thought she would be a teacher, but she said “the universe brought me to where she needed to be.”

In her eighth year teaching Spanish and history at The Peak School, Mills teaches kids from grades six through 11 as well as advising seniors on their senior projects.

“It’s just so funny how life works out, because teaching is such a passion of mine, and it took a little while for me to realize that,” Mills said.

But what exactly makes teaching a passion for Mills?

“The kids are the reason why I teach,” Mills said. “They just give you life, especially here at Peak. The kids here are so good. They care about their peers, they care about me as a teacher, they care about their community, and being a part of that is sort of a dream.”

Mills went to graduate school to study linguistics and became fascinated with second language acquisition. After taking a deep dive into linguistics research, Mills wanted to put her data to the test.

“After doing that for two years, I just thought, ‘Wow, I have so much information here. Why would I not want to try this out with students?’” Mills said. “If all the research says this is the best way to teach and to learn, I want to see that in action, and so that sounded much more exciting than collecting lots of data. … I think it’s a lot more rewarding to see the data working in your classroom.”

Mills said she loves all aspects of Spanish-speaking culture. She said her favorite part of teaching is when a student learns enough Spanish that they can see how prominent it is in the world around them.

“Then they are better community members and, because of our Spanish-speaking community up here, they’re able to engage with members of their community that they wouldn’t have been able to without that language,” Mills said.

To Mills, being a good teacher is about making connections with students and showing them empathy and kindness.

“When you’re able to make a connection with a student, it goes a long way — not just emotionally and socially but academically, as well,” Mills said. “We all feel better when someone understands us, and we’re willing to work harder and willing to push ourselves out of our comfort zone.”

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