Staff Spotlight: Aaron Miller

Staff Spotlight: Aaron Miller


We created a Staff Spotlight series to bring recognition of the many amazing guides and administrators while connecting with them in a personal way.

This month, we honor:

Aaron Miller


Aaron is from Mentor-on-the-Lake and now resides in Painesville. He attended John Carroll University and Lake Erie College earning a degree in History. He was a two-sport athlete at JCU playing baseball and basketball. Aaron is in his eighteenth year with the United States Coast Guard now serving as a reserve at Station Cleveland Harbor, Ohio.

Aaron was led to Hershey by other staff members whom he admires. Those staff members trusted Aaron and saw the gifts and talents he possesses as traits that would be a great contribution to the Hershey adolescent community. For the past two years Aaron worked part-time at our Middle School teaching Humanities and Physical Expression. This year, he is a full-time guide and classroom assistant at the Middle School. 

Aaron is a valued member of our Hershey family. We invite you to get to know him.


Tell us about your family:

I’m married to Michelle Miller. Our oldest son, Ethan, is 11 years old.  We have nine-year-old twins, Jonathan (Johnny Boy) and Alec. We have a dog named Chewy, a cat named May-May, a Beta fish named Bubbles, and two Hermit crabs.


What brought you to Hershey?

It was my wife, Michelle, and [staff members] Tania and Judy. Once I started working here, I could see really quickly how the environment was positive, open, and exciting. You don’t see that many places, let alone in a school setting.


Aaron Miller engages student in “Rock, Paper, Scissors” during first day of school activities.

What is your favorite Hershey memory?

Personally – getting hired full time.

With the students – challenging them during projects and watching them grow through them. Competing with the students during Physical Expression is one of my favorites each week. The different hikes, playing sports against each other, or building shelters are great. Those activities have already produced so many good memories.

On the farm – working with the animals and working the gardens. Making friends with Clay [the horse] was a great memory; so was the time he almost ran me down. 🙂


What is your favorite place to go?

Caribbean Islands – mainly St. Thomas and St. Johns. Locally, I’d say our fishing cabin in Potter, Pennsylvania.


What is your favorite thing to do when you are at home?

I like to play sports with my boys, and socialize with family and friends as much as possible.


Little known fact?

I like taking care of plants, growing herbs, and bird watching/identifying.


Who has made the biggest impact in your life and what does that impact look like?

My parents, my coaches, my friends and family …  they are all different but surrounding myself with positive people has always worked best for me.


What is your favorite book?

In the Heart of the Sea by Nathanial Philbrick.


What is your favorite quote?

The success you’ve had in the past doesn’t mean anything tomorrow.


What is your favorite movie?

A Few Good Men, Caddieshack, and Forrest Gump.


How would your friends and family describe you?

Active, spontaneous, sarcastic, a dreamer, a person who does not like the cold, and belongs on the water or at a beach.


How would you describe yourself?

A big thinker, traveler, and never at rest with ideas.


What is your happiest moment?

Holding my oldest son for the first time.


Aaron Miller guides student instruction during outdoor classroom time.


Is there anything else you would like to share or let others know?

Success comes from dedicated work. Even though our country seems in chaos, it’s still one of the best places to live on this beautiful planet Earth. I had an admiral tell me when you live in other countries half your life, you realize how much America is like staying at The Ritz.


What is one of your biggest life lessons you would like to share with others?

No matter how bad something seems in the moment, the sun will rise tomorrow, and you get to start all over again.


Thank you for your work and dedication, Aaron. We appreciate all you do and the energy you bring to our community. We are happy to know you – and to now know you even better!


Our Need for Community

Our Need for Community

By Judy Kline-Venaleck, Associate Head of School and Huntsburg Campus Director

Community ... it is a word with great reverence in the Montessori world, and it is one that has surfaced recently as the coronavirus has overtaken our global community.

As we have turned the corner into 2021, we need to continue to seek the silver linings of living through this tumultuous time. We need one another — it is just that simple. Our community shapes who we are and has the amazing ability to either lift us up or break us down.

Dr. Montessori, in her many writings and lectures, speaks eloquently about community. She consistently championed the right of each child to be treated as an individual and fought against the social norms of her time. Living through these days and months of isolation and reflection, many are seeking how to deepen their sense of community.

Paul Born, who has written extensively about deepening community, states that there are four acts of community life: sharing our stories, taking the time to enjoy one another, taking care of one another and working together for a better world. May we all continue to share, enjoy, care and work together for a future filled with peace.

When Planets and People Align

When Planets and People Align

(Photo Credit: Ehsan Sanaei)

By Deanna Meadows-Shrum, Hershey Montessori School Marketing & Communications Director


We are in a season in which social distance is not only recommended, but for many, a requirement. We have spent most of the last year physically distanced from our students, our colleagues, our friends, and even from much of our family. However, this is 2020, and it seems that anything is possible – the sky is the limit, so to speak – and it is exactly in the sky where, through the month of December, we will see two rebel planets appearing to defy their own social distance norm. Yes, although Saturn and Jupiter began appearing closer to each other this past summer, beginning mid-December, the proximity of these two rebel planets will greatly narrow and cause a spectacle you don’t want to miss.

On December 21st, these two giant planets will appear just a tenth of a degree apart, which NASA describes as “about the thickness of a dime held at arm’s length”! NASA goes on to explain that the two planets and their moons will be visible in the same field of view through binoculars or a small telescope.

Saturn and Jupiter are actually separated by more than 400 million miles, but in the night sky, they will appear closer than what has been seen in centuries. They will appear to touch and form one large, bright and brilliant star in the sky. This alignment is known to astronomers as a “great conjunction”.

Astronomers tell us that the last time Jupiter and Saturn were this close to each other was in July 1623. A conjunction also took place in 2000, but it was hard to recognize. A closer alignment between these two planets hasn’t been seen since March 4, 1226.

Interestingly, some are saying a holiday connection is also at work. Some astronomers have postulated that in Christianity, the Star of Bethlehem, said to have guided three wise men to the birth of Jesus Christ, was a conjunction like the one set to appear later this month — although no one can say which planets may have been involved.

In true 2020 fashion, isn’t it curious that we will see this historically close alignment of two planets, creating the appearance of the most brilliantly illuminated star seen in centuries? And, it is all happening on December 21st, which is the winter solstice, also known as the darkest day of the year!

Maybe this cosmic event is merely a celestial coincidence, but after all the world has experienced this year, it serves as a great reminder that light does overcome darkness and hope dispels discouragement. And like these two planets, our Hershey community aligns its light of hope for humanity and a better future to illuminate encouragement and inspiration to others.

I am ever so grateful for the light that shines through our Hershey staff, students, and families. May we all continue to shine brightly throughout this holiday season and beyond!


Note to fellow stargazers: the best viewing is said to take place in the southwestern sky 45 minutes after sunset on December 21st.


New Beings Are In Creation

New Beings Are In Creation

By Judy Kline-Venaleck, Associate Head of School and Huntsburg Campus Director

“The child is endowed with unknown powers, which can guide us to a radiant future. If what we really want is a new world, then education must take as its aim the development of these hidden possibilities.” ~ Dr. Maria Montessori

Dr. Montessori regarded the period of adolescence as a time of great vulnerability. She compared the years of early adolescence (ages 12-15) to the first three years of life. Just as the infant requires careful attention and diligence, so too does the young adolescent. For both stages of development, and as author Paula Polk-Lilliard writes…”a new being is in creation…”.

Living through the COVID-19 pandemic and navigating our societal (and political) climate seems to be metaphorically mirroring the development of the adolescent. Just as the adolescent is seeking to join society, many adults in our current social landscape are also feeling the push and pull of how to navigate a transition. Dr. Montessori stated that adolescence is a period of self-construction and they are seeking to “understand people’s behavior in the world as a whole…”

As adolescents are on their journey of seeking this understanding, it is the job of the guide, the teacher, the mentor and the parent to appropriately respond to the questions. HOW we respond matters. And within the response lies the opportunity to provide space, present possibilities and create safety for these young adults to continue to seek the answers in making sense of the world. And ultimately, this allows them to find the courage and confidence to share their own viewpoints and voice.

Order and Beauty Prevail

Order and Beauty Prevail

By Judy Kline-Venaleck, Associate Head of School and Huntsburg Campus Director

Order…things in their place. It means a knowledge of the arrangement of objects in the child’s surroundings, a recollection of the place where each belongs. And this means that he can orient himself in his environment, possess it in all its details. We mentally possess an environment when we know it so as to find our way with our eyes shut, and find all we want within hands’ reach. Such a place is essentially for the tranquility and happiness of life.” ~ Dr. Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood

In the past several months, the Coronavirus has certainly turned our sense of order upside down. Covid’s impact — on how we educate our students, the economy, working remotely, juggling our family’s emotional well-being, racial strife and a divisive political landscape — is like nothing we have had to address in our modern society. Dr. Montessori emphasized order and beauty for children of all ages for a variety of reasons. For adolescents, emphasizing external order (the classroom, the adult, the response) allows the adolescent to establish their own internal order, which is an essential aspect in their development. Covid has encouraged (albeit forced) us to re-evaluate our established sense of order, so that we may continue to meet the adolescent’s needs and promote both safe and healthy social development. It has been a joy to see the students re-emerge from this displaced sense of order of the past several months to both re-establish, and continue to develop, their own internal order. As they do so, we will continue to be by their side guiding, encouraging, and fostering new pathways. These adolescents show us every day the resilience that is their foundation, the perseverance of their spirit and the essential pathway of hope.

Farm News –  Holy Pumpkins!

Farm News – Holy Pumpkins!

By Joyce Cole, Hershey Montessori School Farm Manager


Happy Summer! With this past week’s deluge of rain, I found myself with a little extra time to collect thoughts and pictures and announcements from the farm. I have been eager to share with you.

I hear stories of how the pandemic has afforded a new hobby, or a lifestyle change… Here on the farm, the pandemic has afforded preparation. Everything from the Animal Barn to the Wood Shop to the Bioshelter is experiencing a thorough going-over. The farm and facilities staff have poured their hearts into maintaining, reorganizing and reinvigorating our farm environments for the betterment of our adolescents. Here are just a few happenings on the farm.


The Bioshelter

This school year will mark the beginning of a regrowth and revision of our bioshelter. Now over 15 years old, our bioshelter was designed to be an energy-efficient, thriving greenhouse and classroom. It is an amazing resource for our students to learn about the inter-connectedness of life within an ecosystem. After thriving in this way over many years, the time has come to assess the whole system to determine what’s working, what needs improved, and what can be remembered about our original intentions for the bioshelter. We’ll start with rebuilding and realigning its structures – from the panels to the gutters to the raised beds within the greenhouse – bringing the bioshelter ecosystem back to thriving from its very foundation.


The Pastures and Barns

Some would say that our barns are pretty empty these days. In my past year as Farm Manager, we lost Harley the pony, and Bart, Tomas, and Tiger Bite – three of our farm cats. We let Ernest the buck go because it was time to mix in new genetics. We raised and harvested chickens to feed our community and refresh our laying hen population. Now we have one horse and six goats sharing a barn and pasture, and two large pigs in the Goat Barn! Well, as with the bioshelter, sometimes we need to take a step back and think about how to move forward. This summer we replanted and electrified the inner horse pasture. When students return, they will have the opportunity to help with wiring the fences for ease of pasture management and animal movement, extending the horse pasture, and repairing the cow stall. We are also implementing new pasture management plans that include taking regular soil samples, fertilizing, and overseeding when needed.

San Marzano tomatoes and Genovese basil


The Farm Garden and Market

Finally, I want to take a moment to tell you about our summer gardens. You may remember the huge success of our online plant sale this year. Students started and grew a variety of vegetable plants to outfit our entire community’s gardens. With the long, cool and rainy spring, getting those plants into the gardens on the farm was painfully slow for me and the plants. Well, they finally got planted and though they took a bit of time to recover from being pot-bound, harassed by white flies, cold, and thoroughly drenched, the gardens are now in their full glory! We have so many tomatoes coming in, and just at the stage that is optimal for our students. These are their plants, and they will return to find them ready to harvest.

Musquee de Provence Pumpkin, friend and foe – honeybee + cucumber beetle, eggplant, okra flower, and watermelon


You can shop from the Hershey Microeconomy at Adam McKinney’s family farm stand at 12831 Auburn Road in Chardon, Ohio. The Farm Stand will be open from 4 p.m. till dusk on Friday’s, and 9 a.m. till dusk on Saturday’s. There will be lettuce and greens, eggplant, zucchini, and basil available for sale – with complimentary recipes for pesto and fritters, care of Hershey alumna, Makenna Venaleck. Watch for peppers and a few tomatoes coming soon. Please spread the word! If you have a chance to visit the farm, be sure to check out the two large pumpkin patches already bearing loads of fruit. We timed them to be done by Harvest Festival, so picture a pumpkin patch with happy children picking out their favorite jack-o-lantern.

Our market stand and Makenna’s recipe cards 


There are two more important points I’d like to mention. One, we couldn’t do what we do without our dedicated residential staff who keep a constant eye on things and happily pitch in with the work of the farm. Sharyn, Joy, Paul, and Stella have all been rotating evening and weekend feed shifts, but they also muck stalls, help in the gardens, and landscape. I mentioned Makenna working on the farm this summer, but I am also extremely grateful for Daniel Jolly, Stella’s husband. Both of them have done everything from muckimg stalls to harvesting chickens to weeding garden beds. 

I am excited to add students to the mix of daily camaraderie, discussion, and steady practical farm work. Our adolescents bring fresh perspective, enthusiasm, and ideas. As a relatively new employee who is still catching my stride, I have been grateful for this time to learn and ponder. I am ready and excited – we all are – to put our students back at the fulcrum of our farm.


About the Author: Joyce Cole serves as Farm Manager at Hershey’s Adolescent Campus in Huntsburg, Ohio. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from Hiram College as well as a post-baccalaureate certification in secondary education from Cleveland State University. For the past 15 years, Joyce has lived with her husband, Tom, and their two children, Ella and Tommy, in rural dwellings outside of Cincinnati and Cleveland, Ohio. Inspired by a deep curiosity to live sustainably on the land and a long-standing dream to farm, she studied herbalism, worked on farms, and fed her family locally-grown and foraged foods. Joyce is honored to share her passion for farming with Hershey Montessori students and school community.