Dave Miller, a volunteer at New Mission High School, is our recipient of the 2021 Joyna Bozzotto Award. An academic mentor for over five years, Dave is recognized for his long-standing commitment to Boston Public Schools students across the city.
When Dave Miller retired in 2016, he intended to fill his time with one of his passions – community involvement. Dave began attending local meetings and events in his hometown of Burlington, MA – and while he knew that tutoring was something he was truly passionate about, he had little luck finding any opportunities around town.
Later that year, Dave attended the 50th anniversary of his graduation from Boston Latin School. There, he learned about new school programs, including Saturday Success tutoring – a program that welcomed interested alums. Dave jumped at the opportunity to have an impact on students from his alma mater. Shortly after, while having coffee with a friend, Dave also learned about Boston Partners in Education.
“He said he was doing some tutoring at a school in East Boston, and it was through Boston Partners. So when I got home, I went to the website, and I applied. It all just sort of fell into place after I had been discouraged. Everything just fell in my lap.”
Dave has been volunteering with BPIE ever since, mentoring students at Burke High School, Boston Latin School, and New Mission High School. He’s also begun proctoring through our new online ILS program. Throughout his time in BPS classrooms, Dave has developed relationships with countless students and has plenty of stories to tell.
Dave recalls one of his favorite moments in class when a student approached him with a stern look on his face. “How much do you get paid to do this?” the student asked. Confused, Dave told the student he wasn’t getting paid anything to be there. Still unconvinced, the student asked, “Who’s making you do this?”
“When I told him, nobody made me do it, he said, ‘You mean you want to do this?’ recalls, Dave. “And when I replied, ‘Yes,’ his expression softened, and this little smile started growing on his face – it still sticks in my mind, and it just turned everything around.”
“Dave Miller is the embodiment of academic mentoring. He’s very dedicated and generous with his time. He’s very engaged in what students are learning and goes out of his way to communicate with our program in order to improve it – whether with good news or updates for student support.” – Durane West, BPIE Partnerships Manager
Dave quickly found that mentoring wasn’t just a pastime to fill his retirement days, it became personal. “My father was a math teacher, so it makes me feel like I’m sort of following in his footsteps. I’m not a teacher, but at least I’m helping the students.”
Dave certainly has the instincts of an educator. One afternoon, he found himself in a challenging situation in the school library. The student he was matched with refused his help that day. Dave stayed patient and pondered his next move.
“After a couple of minutes, I noticed a student looking back at me smiling, and she began waving me over asking for help.”
The student who called him over was having a tough time translating the classwork, as English wasn’t her primary language. So Dave sat down and supported her during that class period. The following week, he found himself sitting down with her again. “This student walks in, looks back again, and waves me over – she even kicked out one of the kids sitting next to her and almost forcibly dragged me down to sit. So, I started helping her, and she was wonderful to work with.”
That year, Dave continued to support his mentee and made himself available to the other student when she waved him over. “She saw me as somebody there to help and called me over because she knew she needed it.”
Dave’s willingness to offer help wherever it’s needed is precisely what makes him deserving of the Joyna Bozzotto Award. His spirit, commitment, and years of exceptional mentorship prove that dedication is integral to supporting students effectively.