At 83, Spanish Prof. Jose Miana is beloved by students, and still loves his teaching

 Spanish Prof. Jose Miana with some of his Norwich students. Now 83, he's much beloved for his enthusiasm, generosity and skills at teaching.

Spanish Prof. Jose Miana with some of his Norwich students. Now 83, he’s much beloved for his enthusiasm, generosity and skills at teaching.

He has over 35 suits that Prince would give “diamonds and pearls” for just the opportunity to try one on. He’s attended priest school but not preschool. He’s been to Spain so many times that they now might need to set a holiday in his honor upon his entrance into the country.

He’s Norwich’s most interesting professor, according to Michael Neilan, a 20-year-old sophomore criminal justice major from Holden, Mass., who is just one of Prof. Jose Miana’s many fans.

A Vermont native, Miana has dedicated his life to teaching students as young as first graders and older than the required age for AARP. Throughout his 45-plus year career, he has educated the future of America while being deemed as Norwich’s most interesting professor by the many students that adore him.

After graduating from middle and high school in Barre, Vt., Miana went on to work for his family’s granite company for 12 years before leaving the family trade. While there, he “worked in the office typing up contracts and things like that,” he said. However, he hated it, according to Miana.

With the support of his mother, Miana would then pursue his dreams of one day becoming a priest. However, that lasted three years, as Miana said he did not believe he “was a good representative of Jesus Christ.”

He later joked that only wearing one black suit his entire life was also a key factor in making his decision to leave seminary. (At Norwich, he’s famed for his elaborate wardrobe). With the suggestion of one of the priests at the seminary, Miana followed his dreams and attended college in order to one day teach.

Shortly after graduating with his Bachelors of Arts in education from Siena College, Miana decided to attend Middlebury College, where he would earn his masters in Spanish. He then accepted his first teaching job teaching Spanish to high schoolers at Montpelier High School. This lasted for 28 years until he retired in 1994.

But he found he wasn’t able to leave teaching behind, Miana then taught Spanish to grades one through eight at the local Barre school on a volunteer basis without pay. Shortly after, Norwich University contacted him and asked if he would be interested in teaching Spanish for the university.

Fourteen years later, Miana is still teaching at Norwich, which he considers to be one of the best decisions he has ever made in his life. “The students here at Norwich are unlike any other students I taught, they truly want to be learning,” he said.

Students have the same respect for Prof. Miana as he has for them, says Alex Stewart, a 21-year-old junior psychology major from Ellicott, Md. Unlike some professors, Stewart’s relationship with Miana expanded to outside the classroom setting.

“He’s a good Spanish teacher and he’s been an even better friend and mentor to me,” he said. Stewart’s relationship has grown so much since freshman year that he now visits Miana three to eight times weekly “to study Spanish and drink coffee” together.

Like Stewart, Neilan is also a frequent visitor of Miana during his office hours and receives help expanding on his extensive knowledge of Spanish. For this reason alone, Professor Miana is his most respected teacher, he said.

The evidence of students’ affection for professor Miana is not hard to see when in his office. A card from Frank Halstead, a Norwich University graduate of 2013, had this to say regarding professor Miana, “I just wanted you to know that you are one of the most generous and kind-hearted individuals I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in my life.”

Aidan Burke, a 19-year-old freshman criminal justice major from Winchester, Mass., said Miana has helped make the transition into the military culture of Norwich easier. “He definitely made it more relaxed, considering when you’re a freshman here, it isn’t very relaxed.”

Daniel Choi, a 20-year-old junior criminal justice major from Buena Park, Calif., recently transferred to Norwich University and says Prof. Miana did more than just teach his first class. “So Professor Miana was my very first teacher here a, helpinghim understand “about daily life and how the grading system works here.”

As time has gone on for Choi in Spanish class, his interest in the subject has greatly increased, due to Miana.

“In the beginning, I never really liked or enjoyed Spanish, but having a teacher who’s so passionate and enthusiastic as Prof. Miana really brings up my interest in Spanish and really makes me want to actually learn it,” Choi said.

Nathan Leclair, a 19-year-old sophomore political science major from Norwich, Conn. believes that part of the reason students do so well in his class is Miana’s enthusiasm for teaching. “He is a truly passionate teacher from his interactions with his students to the way he presents the curriculum,” he said

Leclair added, “He’s (Miana) 83 years old so he could retire at any point in time but he still comes back every day to Norwich University to teach and he’s been teaching all of his life. He has a real passion for his career.”

Prof. Miana’s passion for the classroom is matched by his generosity outside it, said Choi. He said Miana gives food and snacks to students, volunteers his time to the church and community. Neilan said Miana even cooks for people and has students over for home-cooked meals.

“Professor Miana has a grandfather-like relationship with most of his students, he really does care about the kids,” said Burke. Jeffrey Hayes, a Norwich University graduate of 2006 who still communicates frequently with Miana, completely agrees.

Hayes ended up taking a Spanish class every semester while attending Norwich and gives full credit to Miana’s personality and character. Looking back on his four years attending Norwich he said, “few of us knew before arrival what treasures we’d find at Norwich during our tenure there: I found Don Jose.”

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