Faculty Spotlight: Christopher Miller

Christopher Miller

Christopher Miller
Program: Speech

Christopher Miller was an athlete in high school and had little interest in speech until he took a speech class as a junior.

"I seemingly was pretty good at giving and/or performing speeches," he recalled. "I was asked if I would be willing to join the speech team and decided to give it a try. I enjoyed the experience, but I was a little 'too cool' to admit it to anyone.

"One summer night, I was talking with a very good friend who I secretly had a huge crush on. I can't remember how we got on the subject, but we both mentioned how much we liked our speech class. She said that she would be on the team but only if I would join with her. Since I thought this would be a good way to be around her all of the time, I said 'yes.' Although we never dated, I did find another love and that was the speech team."

Miller turned that love into a career and now teaches Speech Communication at College of DuPage. But it took some time before he figured out the right path, because he wanted to pursue football. Unfortunately, a significant skiing injury right after high school ended that dream, and he eventually enrolled at Solano Community College in California.

Miller began auditioning for shows presented by the college's Theater program and met his wife, Johanna McKenzie Miller. He liked theater but wasn't sure if this was the right career for him. Finally, he took a speech class at Solano and quickly was recruited to join the speech team by his teacher, Janene Whitesell.

"One night, while researching a speech, I told Janene that I wanted to do what she does: teach speech and run a speech program," Miller said. "She said, OK ... go get your bachelor's and your master's and you can do it. Not knowing where to go, I turned to the director of the Speech and Debate team, Dr. Gary Dreibelbis. Dr. D (as we call him) told me that if I wanted to actually teach speech and to run a program that I needed to go to school in Illinois and suggested Bradley University or Northern Illinois University.

"Dr. D and Janene flew our team out to the Rock Valley tournament so I could visit these two campuses and make a decision. At the tournament I was introduced to my mentor, Judy Santacaterina, the director of Individual Events at NIU. After meeting this wonderful woman and her team, I was sold."

Miller earned both his bachelor's and master's at NIU. He then worked at Kishwaukee Community College as a full-time Speech faculty member and director of Forensics. After three years, he landed a job at COD.

"I truly love what I do," Miller said. "In high school, it was a class that I looked forward to attending and, even more so, I wanted to know more than what was being instructed. Now that I am teaching speech, I feel it's just what I was born to do.

"I say this on the first day of every class: I am here to teach you three speeches that most all of you will have to perform. 1. The Best Man/Maid of Honor Speech. All of us have a sibling or friend who is going to ask you to speak at their wedding. Please don't suck when asked to do this. 2. Eulogy. The hard part of life is that we are going to have someone close to us pass away, and you have to be able to give this speech with character, passion and poise. 3. The Interview. This is a tough world and economy we live in, and I need you to be competitive when faced with finding a career path and it starts with the interview."

Miller gains inspiration from his wife, Johanna, and his son, Wyatt, as well as a variety of others: his mentor Judy Santacaterina and her husband, Matt Swan; his COD colleagues, including Lauren Morgan, Jason Snart, Steve Thompson, John Frazier and Chuck Steele; noonball ("It's hard to explain," he said"); and any sporting activity that inspires him to be the best instructor/coach possible.

Then there's his mother, and he has a favorite memory about her.

"When I was about 7 or 8 years old, my Mom looked me in the eye and said, 'Chris, you should be a teacher when you grow up.' I can't recall what I was doing or why she said this to me, but I'll never forget her saying those words. Ever since, it was always in the back of my mind," he said.

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