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'Energy Lady' honored for her dedication

Aleisha Miller is shown receving the 2019 Energy Educator of the Year award from KEEP (Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program). From left are KEEP's Annie Baker, Miller, and Miller's daughter Niki. Submitted photo

Aleisha Miller is often recognized by kids around the community as the "Energy Lady."

"I'll be walking in the grocery store, and I'll hear somebody whispering 'Mom, that's the energy lady,'" Miller said.

The River Falls School District works with the city of River Falls and its Powerful Choices Initiative to hire Miller, through her company Miller Escape, to do energy education for all second and fourth grade students in the district.

Miller was recently recognized in a different way for her energy education.

She said she was surprised and excited to find out in mid-March that she had been named 2019 Energy Educator of the Year by the Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP).

"She's so deserving of it," said City Conservation and Efficiency Coordinator Mike Noreen. "She earned it."

Noreen nominated Miller.

"I wanted her to get the recognition that she deserves," Noreen said. "And not only for her, but also for this community and others to see all the cool stuff that can be done if you have an energy educator in the schools."

"KEEP is proud to highlight the outstanding network of educators across the state of Wisconsin empowering students, teachers and community members to participate in energy solutions," said Annie Baker, KEEP outreach staff, in a news release.

The Energy Educator of the Year award is given to energy educators who make energy education a priority in their teaching and outreach initiatives.

Noreen said he thinks Miller's passion for energy and environmental education helped her earn this award.

"She goes above and beyond," he said. "She does a great job while she's teaching energy education in schools ... but if there's some other environmental event going on, she's always there. She's like an ambassador for environmental ed."

Miller went to the Saturday, April 27 Celebration of Excellence in Environmental Education Awards Banquet hosted by the Wisconsin Association for Environmental Education in Milwaukee.

"It was nice to be surrounded by people who have the same enthusiasm for the environment," Miller said. "And for energy and for working with kids."

Her own kids, fifth-grader Samantha and second-grader Niki, were there for the meeting and have been learning energy education from Miller at home, and in school, for most of their lives.

Miller started doing energy education in River Falls in 2010.

At the time, Miller said, she had to explain to kids what an LED (light emitting diode) lightbulb was.

"Now, I'm almost at the point where I have to explain what an incandescent bulb was," she said.

That change, she thinks, is a sign of the times.

Miller said she teaches second graders what energy is, and that while electricity is a type of energy, not all energy is electricity. She also teaches them ways to save electricity and about renewable sources of energy like wind and solar power.

Fourth graders learn about electrical use in River Falls, where their energy comes from, and about renewable energy sources.

Miller said her work with the schools has helped them reduce energy and water use. She also helped Westside, Rocky Branch and Greenwood get involved in the Delivering Energy Efficiency Together (DEET) program, which offers incentives to schools for lowering their utility bills by using less energy by, for example, turning off lights that aren't needed.

Noreen said this has saved the district upwards of $70,000 over the past few years.

"I'm really thankful for the opportunity to come in and work with the school district," Miller said. "It's a partnership, and we work together to have this program be possible in the school district."

Miller lauded the support of her husband, Dan Miller, and elementary principals Church Eaton, Nate Schumann and Christopher Kamrath, as well as former Westside Principal Rita Humbert.

Noreen said that teachers and other school staff want Miller teaching her program because of her passion and professionalism. Noreen said teachers often ask if Miller can come in for environmental-themed programs or service learning, in addition to her regular environmental education.

Miller has also championed a number of different projects, including an energy conservation game called "Cool Choices" that teaches kids to find ways to lower their energy use.

Miller was also recently recognized for her award at a Powerful Choices meeting in River Falls.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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