MUSCATINE, Iowa–After spending 10 years as an army nurse, Miranda Durham found herself looking for a short term job. She took up substitute teaching and unexpectedly discovered a passion for working with young people. “I started substitute teaching and found that I loved it, especially teaching high school,” she remembers.
When Durham start looking into what area of teaching she could certify in, she came across Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates, or iJAG, a program that helps students develop workplace readiness skills and explore educational and career interests to help them prepare for the steps they will take after graduation. Intrigued, Durham completed the necessary course work to obtain a teaching license as well as iJAG’s specific training program.
After finishing her certification, Durham had the opportunity to choose between teaching at Muscatine High School or a school in Davenport. As someone who grew up in the Muscatine region, she found a lot to like about the district and considered it a great fit for her. “I feel really lucky to be in Muscatine,” she shared. “The administration and staff really feel like a family, and they all work together for the students’ success.”
Durham has spent the last five years at Muscatine High School. She currently teaches a four credit course for ninth and 10th grade students focused on developing soft skills. “We work on real-world skills that will help students in the workplace and outside of school,” she explained. Using a trauma-informed care model, Durham takes into account the difficulties students may face in their lives and helps them to overcome any challenges that could make it more difficult for them to succeed in the future.
Durham loves the way that the hands on work she does with her students helps them form positive relationships with her. She also appreciates how the iJAG program’s framework allows students to not only explore job placement and educational options while in school but also follows them for a year after they graduate to ensure they adjust well to the next stage of their lives. “I love the connections with the kids and the community,” she stated. “I love what I do and where I do it–I’m very fortunate.”
This August, Durham received the iJAG Eastern iJAG Eastern Iowa Specialist of the Year award for the work she has done at Muscatine High School. iJAG Program Manager Yen Dao, nominated her for the many outstanding qualities he observed in her, including her strong work ethic, organization skills, and dedication to the iJAG program. He detailed: “She has been instrumental in ensuring the success of the iJAG programs in the Muscatine district since the beginning and is the reason why we are able to add another program at the junior high. We are lucky to have her!”
Muscatine High School Principal Terry Hogenson also commended her for a job well done: “From the moment she was hired at MHS, she established herself as a valued member of our educational community. She is caring, dedicated, and professional. She holds her students as well as herself to high levels of accountability. Students don’t slip through the cracks when they are under her care and guidance.”
Durham herself feels both deeply honored and committed to making the iJAG program even stronger in years to come. “I’m proud, but it also drives me to want to do better.”