Verena Miller has returned to Patagonia to teach preschool at Patagonia Montessori. Photo by Aisha Sander

Verena Miller, or Miss V as her students call her, has roots in Patagonia, having moved here from Georgia when she was 10 years old. After graduating from PUHS, Miller moved to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona and then Pima College to complete an associate degree in Early Childhood Education. 

In the summer of 2019 Miller had just completed her degree and was planning to move to Oregon. However, her great-grandmother was moving from Georgia to Patagonia and Miller was asked if she would be interested in moving home to help with her caregiving. 

Miller said, “I always knew I wanted to be with my great-grandmother in the last years of her life but thought that I would have to uproot and move to Georgia to be with her. When the chance came for me to be with her in Patagonia, I took it.” 

As Miller prepared to move to Patagonia, her father told of her a job opportunity at the Patagonia Elementary Montessori School for a preschool teacher. When school principal Jessie Beebe interviewed Miller, she knew that she was the right fit for the school. Within three weeks Miller had to move, find a place to live and begin preparing for the new semester. 

A semester into her role as the new preschool Montessori teacher, Miller has committed to training in the Montessori method under the supervision of Beebe. “The Montessori method and this small-town school is a perfect fit for me,” Miller said, “and the individualized, intimate setting of the school is best for a child’s development.” 

Miller is guided by a number of core principles in her classroom. First, she aims to be an observer and, rather than correcting children, she watches and waits for an opportunity to model how to use the materials in the classroom. Second, she sets up the classroom in a way that students are guided by their individual interests to the Montessori materials. Third, she gives students the time to figure things out for themselves. Lastly, she models and demonstrates how to use the materials without using a lot of words. 

Growing up in Patagonia has shaped Miller’s personality and returning to her hometown as a teacher has been unexpectedly wonderful, she said. “I never knew it would feel so good to give back and serve my community.”