Beloved sub Ms. Miles shares ‘super cool’ stories

Beloved sub Ms. Miles shares super cool stories

By Gil Jacobson and Hannah Yasharoff

Substitute teachers are, by definition, temporary visitors in students’ lives, often going from class to class without making any long-lasting impressions the way teachers do.

However, Maureen Miles is just the opposite. Miles has been substitute teaching for 19 years and is largely known around CHS for making students “super cool.”

“I’m always making up things to try to make classes seem a little bit different,” Miles said.  “Students come in to see their teachers every day, but if you can add something to make it a little different, they just enjoy it.”

Miles is also known for her memorable stories that she shares with students about her interesting life experiences.

“When I come to classes, the kids always say ‘Ms. Miles, will you tell us a story?’” Miles said.  “And I say, ‘Do your work.  With five minutes left, I’ll tell you a story.’  So I tell them a story, and everybody comes out of the room just grinning.”

Several of Miles’ life stories have become famous, such as the time a man stuck his head inside her car and she hit him on the head with a crowbar, or when she caught a “peeping Tom” in the women’s bathroom.

“They say ‘Ms. Miles, I heard that story where you hit the man with the pipe. Will you share it?’” Miles said. “That was just hysterical. One student told me that he told the story to his father at the dining room table, and his father fell off the chair laughing.”

Miles has a long history of almost unbelievable stories featuring both herself and her family, which she hopes to someday compile into a book about her life.

“I guess I’ve been telling these stories ever since I was about 12 or 13 years old,” Miles said. “It seems like the funniest things always happen to me. I guess I’m just always in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The most notable story about her family is its impressive history. Miles happens to be part of the oldest African-American family in the US. Her mother’s maiden name, Quander, dates back over 300 years, when her ancestors worked as a slaves on George Washington’s plantation.

According to a Feb. 21, 2013 Washington Post interview with Joseph Victor Stefanchik, another descendent of the Quander family, the Quanders are in a unique position because their role in American history exposes the fact that George Washington did not free his slaves within his lifetime. Washington’s will pronounced his slaves free at the time of his death in 1799, but it was not until the death of his wife, Martha, in 1802 that the Quanders, along with the rest of Washington’s slaves, were finally freed.

According to Miles, there are 20 sites connected to the Quanders, either in Prince George’s County, Washington D.C. or Alexandria, VA, as well as the Quander Road School in Alexandria and Quander Street in southeast Washington.

According to secretary Angela Polis, Miles frequently substitutes for CHS teachers because of her consistent availability and close proximity to the school, and “she likes working with the CHS students.”

Many students have fond memories and stories about their experiences with Miles, including when they first became “super cool.”

Sophomore Aaron Bach remembers first meeting Miles in ninth grade biology when she asked which students wanted to be “super cool.”

“Five of us raised our hands,” Bach said. “She called us up to the front of the class and told us to do all of these hand gestures and at the end of that, she said, ‘Now repeat after me: I will obey my parents, I will obey my teachers, I will be a good citizen.’ Then we were super cool.”

Senior Conor Quigley is also fond of her passion for teaching, combined with her quirky personality.

“One time Ms. Miles marked me absent because I didn’t smile when she called my name,” Quigley said. “She’s very passionate and she seems to enjoy what she does.”

Senior Shreya Navile admires Miles for being serious about teaching, while also adding comic relief to the classes she substitutes for.

“After we took a test, Ms. Miles asked, ‘Do you want to do something to make you powerful?’,” Navile said.  “We were all asking, ‘What?’  I volunteered, and a senior from last year volunteered too.  She made us hold hands, cross elbows and do this ritual.  She said ‘Now you guys are unified.’  It was really funny.”

Ultimately, Miles’ favorite part of substitute teaching is the opportunity to make students happy.

“It’s good when you can make children happy,” Miles said.  “You never know what goes on in the home or if there are some unhappy things that have happened, and they have to come to school and they’ve got different issues and a lot of work and all.  But sometimes, you can make them laugh.”