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Arnold School of Public Health

Special education teacher completes master’s degree to help children with early language, literacy challenges

July 25, 2022 | Erin Bluvas,

“I spent most of my teaching career working with struggling readers and writers,” says Lisa Miller, an August graduate of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders’ (COMD) Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology – Distance Education program. “I’ve seen firsthand the correlation between poor language skills and difficulties in learning to read and write.”

Originally from West Virginia, Miller has spent the past 25 years working as a special education teacher and leader with the Charleston County School District. She had moved to the Low Country to begin her teaching career (later earning a master’s degree in the field from the College of Charleston) and never left.

During her two-and-a-half decades working with children, Miller has observed the importance of developing language skills in the early years. It was this connection that inspired her to explore the field of speech-language pathology – a career path that she initially encouraged her daughter to pursue.

“I shared with her how rewarding it feels to help individuals meet goals that lead to lifelong changes,” Miller says. “I explained the different choices and flexibility within the field. I pointed out the opportunities to continue learning while working with like-minded professionals.”

It took a conversation with COMD Professor Emeritus Hiram McDade to help Miller realize those were her reasons for becoming a speech-language pathologist. McDade, who was serving as the department’s graduate director at the time, encouraged Miller to apply to the distance education program.

Speech-language pathologists and other special educators are critical players in designing and delivering services that promote equity, inclusion, and high-quality instruction to students with disabilities.

-Lisa Miller, M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology - Distance Education, 2022

“This program allowed me to continue working and living in Charleston while building strong relationships with faculty and my student cohort,” she says. “I feel fortunate to have learned from the talented instructors and researchers at UofSC. Elizabeth Barnes, Joanna Scoggins, and Jessica Klusek are outstanding educators and role models. They care deeply about the subject matter and the students they are preparing to be successful speech-language pathologists.”

During her program, Miller gained clinical experience in elementary and private practice settings. After completing an internship with Shem Creek Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, she plans to work for her long-time employer, helping children in the Charleston County School District with literacy and language difficulties.

“I love how learning is inherently fun for children,” says Miller, who has won two Teacher of the Year Awards in the past 10 years. “Helping them develop strong communication skills and witnessing their progress, academically and socially, is rewarding for me.” 

She is also looking forward to engaging in the interdisciplinary collaboration that she has experienced throughout her career and that was emphasized in her master's program. Miller has seen the positive impact of these integrated efforts on educational achievement.

“I believe, within the school setting, teachers and related service providers matter more to a child’s success than any other aspect of their schooling,” she says. “Speech-language pathologists and other special educators are critical players in designing and delivering services that promote equity, inclusion and high-quality instruction to students with disabilities.”

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