Aiming high

Dr. Emily Miles, Sterling Elementary principal, expected Friday, Sept. 13, to be an interesting day. “It was Friday the 13th, there was a full moon. We were prepared for it to be a weird day,” she said.

When Southwest Learning Community Superintendent Dr. Steve Esposito set up a last-minute meeting, Miles was surprised. “He’s not really a last-minute person,” she said. “He came and we were meeting for maybe 30 seconds and then my staff told me there was an emergency in the gym that required my immediate attention.”

Miles and Esposito ran to the gym where Miles was surprised by her fifth-grade students and staff. “I was so confused,” she said. “I couldn’t figure out why they were in the gym.”

Esposito informed Miles that she was the Southwest Learning Community Principal of the Year. “I was so excited and happy,” said Miles. “It was great for my students to see our school being honored for doing hard work for them and helping them be successful.”

Esposito said Miles is a dynamic leader. “She is passionate and energetic. She takes great pride in building relationships and improving the educational experience for all of her students,” he said. “In addition, Dr. Miles works tirelessly to build capacity among her teachers and teacher leaders to influence positive change as it relates to student and staff culture and student achievement.”

Sterling is a special place for Miles. She was the school’s literacy facilitator from 2008 to 2013 and then became the school’s assistant principal. She left to become Montclaire Elementary’s principal. “It was so exciting for me to be able to come back home to Sterling,” said Miles. “This school has some of the most amazing, hardworking teachers I’ve ever been around that really care about kids.”

Miles grew up in Syracuse, N.Y. and intended to major in computer science. “I did that for a couple of years and then realized I don’t want to be in computer science and I don’t want to live somewhere that’s cold all the time.”

She moved to Charlotte and earned her undergraduate degree from UNC Charlotte. She also earned literacy and school administration master’s degrees from Queens University and her doctorate from Wingate University.    

Miles taught for five years before becoming a literacy facilitator. “I had others that saw potential in me and said I could be a great leader,” she said. “I didn’t see it in myself and always said I didn’t want to be a principal. Two years later, I was in the principal chair! I love helping people and being a principal is really about being a teacher.”

Miles still has a strong passion for literacy. “I feel like that time between Pre-K and second grade is what will make a school successful,” she said.

Half of Sterling’s teachers are experienced and the other half are in their first three years of teaching. Her school is a Master Mentor school where teachers have monthly professional development to enhance their skills. Other schools send teachers to Sterling to observe and learn from these sessions. “Teaching is one of the hardest jobs a person can have,” said Miles. “It is about relationships and people and highs and lows. It is good for new teachers to see that veteran teachers don’t have all the answers. We stick together to make sure we are all at the highest level.”

Miles and her staff have also worked on making the school a place where adults and students love to come. “I am happy to walk in the front door every morning,” she said. “Kids want to be here. Adults want to be here. Kids are getting what they need.”

Outside of work, Miles and her husband have three children. Her oldest son plays lacrosse and her daughter is a cheerleader. “I spend my weekends being a sports mom and carting my three kids around,” said Miles.

Her youngest son is in pre-kindergarten at Sterling. “That is how much I believe in this school,” said Miles. “I send my own child here.”