Passion for hair, students keeps Miller teaching

Shawnda Miller always had a knack for doing hair.

In high school, she would do everyone’s hair. She loved formulating color, creating styles and transforming someone’s look — making people feel good about themselves made Miller happy.

Miller, now a lead instructor at Winchester’s College for Technical Education Cosmetology program, said her aunt, who was also a hairdresser, inspired her.

“From the time I was a little girl, my aunt was a hairdresser, and every time she learned something new in school, she would teach me,” Miller said.

Miller was born in Michigan but grew up in Stanford, Kentucky. She graduated high school in 1989, returned to Michigan and went to beauty school.

“I’ve been a hairdresser ever since,” Miller said.

Miller moved back to Kentucky in 2008 and continued working as a hairstylist until about three years ago when she decided to take a slight career change.

Miller followed the apprentice instructor program at CTE, graduated with high honors and has now moved up to being a lead instructor.

“I love being a hairdresser,” Miller said. “It’s my passion. And, unfortunately, I’m getting older. I was diagnosed with lupus five years ago and cannot work behind the chair the way I used to. So, now I get to teach what I love.”

Miller said she is fortunate to have moved up in her career quickly. She said she owes it to her coworkers and team: Terry Nelson, Ronnie Richardson, Bianca Fisher and Megan Pratt.

Outside of work, Miller said she enjoys going to the movies especially as a self-proclaimed “comic nerd.” She said she also enjoys spending time with her two daughters.

When searching for a school to transition into teaching, Miller found CTE to be her favorite; it helped a friend of hers, Ronnie Richardson, was also working at the school.

As an instructor, Miller ensures all of her students receive theory and practical education necessary for her students to start a successful career. Students learn theory in the morning and the rest of the day, they receive training or take on appointments open to the public from 10:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday which includes cuts, color, waxing, facials, makeup, pedicures, manicures and more.

Miller said students are currently gearing up for the “Back to School” special in which the trainees will be offering free kids cuts, $2 haircuts, $2 eyebrow wax and 50 percent off color services to all teachers in Winchester.

Students will also train on their mannequins and each other. Students must complete 1,800 hours of education at CTE per the Kentucky State Board of Hairdressers and Cosmetologists requirements before taking the licensure exam, according to CTE’s website. Miller said she usually has students for at least a year.

Miller said her favorite part about her job is teaching a new generation.

“It is a passion for us,” Miller said. “It is a way for us to make people feel good about themselves. The world is so beautiful. And we get to enhance that beauty.”

Miller said one of her favorite quotes she lives by both as a hairdresser and as a person is from Maya Angelou: “People will forget said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you make them feel.”

Throughout her 20 plus years as a hairdresser, Miller said she has seen techniques and styles change.

“Thirty years ago, we were all about the perm,” she said. “Today, it’s more about color and highlighting. Cuts don’t change much. It’s just styled differently.”

Miller said teaching had exceeded her expectations.

“It’s very rewarding, much more so than I ever thought it would be, watching them start their career, go through all of their struggles with life and then graduate is… They’re my children.” Miller said. “They become my family, and I get to watch them start to finish and then give them a diploma. It’s a very rewarding job.”

Though it can be challenging knowing her students are struggling and not having the means to help them, Miller said.

“All of the students that I have here are such strong-willed and determined to succeed that they’ve overcome so much,” she said. “That’s a joy to watch, but not being able to help them or have the means to help them is difficult.”

Miller said she’d learned a lot while being an instructor such as patience and resilience. Miller said the stories her students tell her about their lives also inspires her.

“They’ve inspired me,” Miller said. “I’m 48 years old and diagnosed with lupus. It’s easy sometimes to give up when I’m so tired, but they motivate me just as much as I motivate them.”

She said she wants her students to remember she will always be there for them.

“I will always believe in them,” she said.

As for the future, Miller said she’s not stopping anytime soon.

“I’m gonna be one of those ladies that’s 90 years old, still doing hair,” she said. I cannot imagine

not doing hair…

“I’m a hairdresser. It’s who I am.”