Oxford Middle School teacher returns to work after accident
by Eddie Burkhalter
eburkhalter@annistonstar.com
Aug 17, 2013 | 11512 views |  0 comments | 96 96 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Charles Miller works in his classroom at Oxford Middle School on Friday. Miller is set to resume teaching Monday for the first time since a July 2012 motorcycle accident. (Photo byStephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
Charles Miller works in his classroom at Oxford Middle School on Friday. Miller is set to resume teaching Monday for the first time since a July 2012 motorcycle accident. (Photo byStephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
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OXFORD – Charles Miller can’t recall the wreck that changed his life, but the feeling of standing in front of a room of students remains fresh on his mind.

That feeling is what pushes the 26-year-old Oxford Middle School science teacher to overcome the physical injuries that have him — for now — in a wheelchair.

Monday will be Miller’s first day back at work since he wrecked his motorcycle July 6 last year in a single-vehicle crash on Jones Road in DeArmanville.

But Miller never says he’s paralyzed without prefacing it with the word “temporary.”

“It won’t be like this forever,” he said.

His father, Charles Miller Sr., describes his son as motivated, saying after rehabilitation appointments he’ll come home and exercise all over again.

“I don’t even see him in a wheelchair. I just see him as a man that’s doing a job, and can still do it,” Miller said.

Miller was flown to UAB Hospital in Birmingham after the crash, where for five weeks a ventilator breathed for him. Afterward, he received two months of physical therapy at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, and came home to DeArmanville on Sept. 28.

His doctor cleared him to return to work last Monday, but he couldn’t wait that long to see his students. He traveled to the school in April for a visit.

“I couldn’t stay away from them,” Miller said.

A 2004 graduate of Anniston High School, Miller was president of his senior class. He graduated from Talladega College in 2008 and began working at Oxford Middle that same year.

Kyle McCartney, principal at Oxford Middle, said Miller became a role model for students, and his love for the kids is clear.

“It means a lot for me to see him back. He’s still got that same enthusiasm he had before. I’m fired up about it,” McCartney said.

McCartney returned to work in March after spending three months recovering from his own serious car crash, which happened Dec. 6, six months to the day of Miller’s accident.

“I’m in full swing now finally,” McCartney said. “I feel good.”

Miller said the work he does to get better is tough, but that he does it so that “my students will be able to see that you can do anything in life that you want to do.”

“For them to see me still striving to go to work, even through this situation, they’ll see that they can do it,” Miller said. “Especially when I can get up out of the wheelchair and walk. That’s the big thing.”

McCartney had a video made of Miller’s students wishing him well. Miller recalls seeing it for the first time just as he awoke at UAB.

“Going back and looking at it, and reading the cards,” Miller said. “Just knowing everybody was on my side. Even after things slow down and people go back to their lives I still have people come in when I really need them … I’ve never been alone through this.”

Getting back to work will help him heal, said his mother, Vickie Miller.

“That’s all he ever talked about, was that ‘I want to get back into the classroom,’” she said.

Miller said he is thankful for all those who prayed for him, and for those who acted to help in his recovery. He also thanked the community, the Oxford school system and all the teachers there that donated their own sick days to him.

Miller said he expects that on the first day of school Monday he’ll field questions about his accident from his students.

“But I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “To me getting my sense of purpose back. Back to making a difference. Back to what I love to do.”

Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.

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