Hamilton educator who changed lives one service opportunity at a time ends nearly 30-year career

College pennants lined the walls of the career center computer lab that served as a classroom for Zellene Miller, career development coordinator for Hamilton City Schools.

They were the result of many inquiries sent out as she networked with potential future educators of her students.

MORE: 2 summer experiences for Hamilton youth: One helps teens find jobs; the other stops ‘summer slide’

Her students.

It’s a distinction made clear by the fondness she felt for each and every one of them. Dozens of photographs were layered on her bulletin board — her wall of fame. Many graduates contacted her during the past 27 years since she began her work in the district to let her know where they landed and what they are up to.

“Her purpose is the kids,” said Hamilton High School Assistant Principal Gene Hutzelman. “She truly is all about the kids, and however she can help the kids.”

Miller, who retired at the end of this school year, worked closely with Career Technical Education students to sharpen their interview skills and soft skills, and was the link for companies hiring students. She was instrumental in starting and leading numerous service and career related programs for the school, as well as connecting student volunteers to just about every event throughout the city of Hamilton.

“I wear a lot of hats,” she said. “I help create partnerships.”

MORE: Hamilton teen makes history at St. Rita School for the Deaf

Hutzelman credited Miller with helping him learn the ropes of Career Tech when he took on his role five years ago.

“She’s fantastic. She does so many things here, I wouldn’t know where to start. She’s a go-to person for an awful lot of people at the high school and this community”

Ten years ago, she started a service organization in partnership with Altrusa called Ability, Service, Training, Responsibility, and Achievement (ASTRA). With 30-50 students each year giving of their time, the group boasted at least 60 service hours annually. She was so proud of her student volunteers, she took the time to make personalized certificates acknowledging their contributions.

MORE: Hamilton schools considering more armed guards, classroom barricades and bullet-proof windows

Miller also started a group called Girls Leading our World, which introduced female students to female role models in technical careers. Additionally, she was proud of her work as liaison between the AurGroup Financial Credit Union and the Hamilton High School Big Blue Credit Union, which is unique in that students have access to an ATM machine right inside the school cafeteria.

“I think it’s important for students to learn how to make good decisions financially,” she said.

Prior to coming to Hamilton City Schools, Miller worked for Diebold Inc. for 20 years, a company that made ATM machines, vaults and safes. There, she was able to facilitate community programs such as Positive Education Reaching Teens, which linked her with the school district. The transition to full-time educator was a dream job.

“I have enjoyed the people I work with, especially the children,” she said. “I feel like I have learned just as much from them, and I hope they have learned from me. It’s bittersweet, because I know that it is time for me to retire, but I have enjoyed my job.”

Miller plans to take some time to travel with her husband and spend time with her two children, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. However, she said it won’t be long before she reconnects with the many Hamilton area organizations she holds dear to continue community service work.

“We all have a purpose, and our purpose is to help each other to do whatever we can to make life easier for someone else whether it is time or money or whatever you can do,” she said.

About the Author