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Global Awareness Lands Teacher First Global Educator Award

Armed with the curriculum that comes with the job as government and history teacher at Fairfax High School, Dr. Linda Miller usually knows what the day's lesson plan is unless something unusual happens in the world, and then she shifts gears and turns on the television so her students stay abreast of world events. It was that global awareness dedication that made her the first recipient of the Peace Corps' "Peace Educator Award."

"Whatever's happening, we discuss it. We just have discussions as the world turns, so to speak. It's such an honor to be awarded the first one," she said.

Anne Baker, the National Peace Corp Global Education director, noted Miller's award.

"She's been very active in global and peace education," Baker said.

Miller was also a recipient of the Peace Corps' Global Educator Award in 2000.

AN EXPERIENCE with Russian exchange students and teachers broadened her global horizons. It started in 1998, and since then she's traveled to Russia and hosted students in her classes several times.

The terrorist strike on Sept. 11 played a part this year.

"The Russian families we knew from last year contacted us to make sure we were all right," she said.

Russian students who were due to arrive in September didn't end up coming until November. Miller's class regularly travels to Russia over spring break, but this year it was canceled due to the school ban on international travel spurred by the terrorism. In addition, two members of Global Teach Net were also on the plane that struck the Pentagon. They were teachers from Washington, D.C., according to Baker, and this was one of the driving forces that started this new award. It made Baker more enthusiastic to be behind a cause like the Peace Corps.

"We're specialized in educating toward a more peaceful world," she said.

Steve Singman, assistant principal, went on the April 2001 trip with Miller and the students.

"It gives them an opportunity to break down stereotypes. Linda's to be commended for initiating the program," he said.

He would like to see it expanded in the future.

"One of the best educations you can receive is to travel," he said.

ALTHOUGH MILLER didn't participate in Peace Corps activities in her younger years, she was aware of the program and kept on top of all Peace Corps developments. That included lessons that she incorporated into her curriculum.

"I'm always looking to widen the students’ horizons and what's going on in the world. They're at the age when they can make a difference. I feel like a child of the Peace Corps. It was born when I was in the seventh grade," she said.

She even had Dan Wemhoff, one of the first Peace Corps activists in 1961, visit her class.

"When we require them [students] to do this community service, it starts them on another path. Dan Wemhoff showed them a map of where they can go with the Peace Corps and stressed a second language. You can't go into Peace Corps until after college. They will think more of what to take in college now," she said.

Miller teaches world history, geography and American government on various levels at Fairfax. Former Fairfax County Public Schools superintendent Dr. Robert Spillane was an inspiration in looking at the global picture. Spillane, currently working with the State Department, was superintendent from the mid-1980s into the '90s, before current superintendent Daniel Domenech.

"He was always very complimentary of the awards I got, he's the one who spurred me on," she said.

Miller is a Loudoun County resident and plans to retire in June 2003 after another year of teaching. But she doesn't plan on retiring in the classic sense. She's looking at a few opportunities her affiliation with world politics and the Peace Corps has opened. That includes contact with the International Studies School Association.

"They're interested in me promoting international schools. I feel like this award has opened the door for a whole new future for me," she said.

Miller looks at when Rosalyn Carter lifted the age requirements for the Peace Corp as another window of opportunity. Joining after she retires is an option.

"It did pass through my mind. Now there's no age requirement, I could do it when I retire," she said.