2017 Silver Circle Winner Jean Mills

Since 1966, the Silver Circle Award has been presented to some of UIC’s best teachers. Winners, who are honored at their college commencements, receive $500 and their names join a long list of distinguished colleagues. But what makes the award especially meaningful is its selection committee: the graduating seniors.

Whether it’s with patients or students, Jean L. Mills, MS, RN, BC enjoys educating others.

Mills serves as a clinical instructor in UIC’s Urbana regional nursing program, teaching pathophysiology and pharmacology, clinical concepts and processes of adult health, and client/patient education and health literacy. A former patient educator at Urbana’s Carle Foundation Hospital, Mills’ transition to a college campus from a medical center has been seamless.

“When I am in clinical rotations with the students, I have patient contact and I love interacting with them,” Mills said. “But I love teaching students. I have the best of both worlds.”

Mills was the first in her family to enter the health care field. As a young girl, she would tag along to her mother’s medical appointments, becoming enthralled with the hospital environment. Seeing all of the nurses busily working around her, she inquisitively asked what they were doing. When she learned more about nursing, she wanted to make it her lifelong profession.

Mills began her career as a staff nurse in the intensive care unit of a Kankakee-area hospital. After four years, she transitioned to coordinator of nursing education, meeting the orientation and continuing education needs of staff nurses. She eventually moved to Carle Foundation Hospital, and while there, she began teaching part-time in Urbana’s regional program in 1999. She became a full-time UIC instructor in 2005.

The work as a college nursing educator is challenging, but incredibly enjoyable, she said.

“The students are what make it rewarding,” Mills said. “It’s all of us together that make a difference, in producing a good nurse, a good product. I’ve loved being a nurse.”

Krista Jones, DNP, MSN, APHN, RN, director of Urbana’s regional campus, has more in common with Mills than being nurse educators. In 2011 and 2014, Jones herself was the recipient of the Silver Circle Award. Jones, who also serves as clinical assistant professor, said Mills is a “remarkable educator.”

“Jean has an engaging, interactive and participative teaching philosophy that fosters students’ appreciation and learning while nurturing students’ creativity and confidence,” she said. “I am thrilled to see her hard work and dedication rewarded with this prestigious honor.”

While she was excited to learn of her Silver Circle Award, Mills said she was not expecting it.

“I hold the people who have won this award in high esteem,” Mills said. “It is a great honor to join them as a recipient of the Silver Circle.”