Connections: Linking Talented Educators
Connections: Linking Talented Educators

Spotlight: Misty Ayres-Miranda (TN '15)

March 1, 2016

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Misty Ayres-Miranda (TN '15) thinks everyone should spend time working in a service business. "It's important for a person to know what happens on the other side of the counter," she says. "We have to remember to walk softly in each other's shoes." She received her Milken Educator Award at Nashville School of the Arts on November 10, 2015.

Milken Family Foundation: How did you end up in education?

Misty Ayres-Miranda: I always knew I wanted to work in education, but I never saw English as my calling. However, once I got into college, I realized that there were many things I was unprepared for due to either my own misgivings about what was important, or my own belief that because I did well in high school, I could easily skate by in college. I now believe that my teachers were unable to challenge me in the way that I needed because they were just as overwhelmed as other teachers with too many expectations without enough support. As long as I understood the material and was passing, especially with A's, my work was somewhat overlooked. When I got to college, I realized that I would have to work much harder in order to prove myself, and that essay writing, which I thought I was excellent at, was actually a weakness my freshman year. I knew that when I became a teacher, I would make sure to continuously challenge and push my students, especially the ones who felt they already knew everything I had to teach them. I promised myself I would never tell my students that because they were smart they didn't have to work as hard.

MFF: Who was your own most memorable teacher? 

Misty: Mrs. Holmes. She was my English III Honors teacher, and her use of discussion questions and Socratic Seminar was my favorite technique and one I utilize in my class. She also had a way of frustrating me to the point of wanting to quit, but challenging me enough so that I knew I never would.  

MFF: What was your first job?

Misty: All girls in my family start out babysitting, usually for free!  However, my first real job, which I was paid for, was working with my mom at Tennessee Orthopedic Alliance. I had to work eight and a half hours, Monday through Friday, for a month in the mail room. I got up with my mother at 6:30 in the morning and didn't get home until six at night. It helped me realize what my day-to-day life would be like, and it also helped me decide on what I really wanted in my future job, and what I didn't. I knew that working in a cubicle would never be my profession.

MFF: You worked as a waitress and in retail before teaching, and you've said you think everyone should work in a service business at some point. Why?

Misty: I believe everyone should have to serve other people in a job, especially one that so many people interact with on a daily basis. It's important for a person to know what happens on the other side of the counter. We have a habit of assuming that everyone and everything is against us when something doesn't go our way, especially when we expect a certain service, but we often forget that the service and the person are not one and the same. We have to remember to walk softly in each other's shoes, and not with the expectation that we can do a better job.

MFF: Tell us about your first class.

Misty: The hardest part of my first year was the first day. Nothing can prepare you for the sheer terror you feel when you walk into a room, 35 pairs of eyes staring at you, while you try to prove that you are the authoritative figure. It was especially hard for me, as I was a student teacher the previous year. I had one moment when my lecture chair broke and I was ALMOST impaled by the chair legs. Out of nowhere, one of my football player students ran to the front and scooped me up Superman-style. I had to convince him that I was okay, not hurt, and he could put me down.

MFF: A student is thinking about a career in education. What do you say?

Misty: I promise the student that he or she will never have to worry about being bored. There's no time for boredom!  

MFF: What impact do you think your Milken Educator Award presentation had on students at your school?

Misty: Besides the ones who asked me for loans? The kids were more excited than I was, which is saying something! They were honestly so sweet and kept telling me how "they knew." I had no idea, so I didn't understand how they could have known. Their happiness and enthusiasm made the award even more fulfilling.

MFF: What's your favorite time of the school day?

Misty: Honestly, my favorite time of the day is lunch, but not for the reason you think! Half of my classes are done, and I get a moment to reflect on whether or not I'm giving my all that day. I'm allowed to take a moment and decide how I want to finish the rest of my day. Anytime I get a chance to check up on my progress, and hopefully improve with my second wind, I'm grateful.

MFF: If someone gave you a million dollars for your school, what would you do with it?

Misty: Since I'm starting my new program with the literary arts department, I would use it on books and laptops for my students. I would spend money on creating partnerships with the writing groups in Nashville, especially Southern Word. I would donate money to each of the conservatories in my school. I would make sure to donate money to our Special Education teachers to help them better serve our students. I would also set up a scholarship in the school's name for students who were going into education for their undergraduate degree. I would make sure to donate money to helping us build a better theater. And of course, new copy machines!

MFF: When you retire, what do you want your former students and colleagues to say about you?

Misty: That I made them want to be better, whatever that looks like.

MFF: If you hadn't chosen a career in education, what would you be doing right now?

Misty: Publishing and editing books. A job where I'm allowed to read all day sounds almost as good as teaching.

MFF: Because you're a singer: What song best represents how you feel about teaching?

Misty: Funny! Probably "Winds of Change," as that seems to be a common element of education.

MFF: Go-to karaoke tune?

Misty: Anything by Queen. "Bohemian Rhapsody" with a group, "Somebody to Love" on my own. Or "I Will Survive."  Actually... that last one may work for my teaching theme song, too!

MFF: Finish this sentence: "I know I'm succeeding as an educator when..."  

Misty: "...my students aren't afraid to answer a question."

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