On Milisa Steiner’s 18th birthday her father allowed her to drive her parents’ brand new vehicle. She didn’t make it out of the garage. As she was backing up, she hit her own Jeep. She quickly made two phone calls, one to her older brother and another to her favorite police officer.
“I called my brother Alex,” recalls Steiner, whose maiden name was Tejada. “Then I called Officer (Mike) Hignite. He was my teacher in the Springdale High School Law Academy and he was also our school student resource officer.”
Why did she choose to call Officer Hignite?
“I knew I could talk to him,” Steiner responds. “I wanted him to tell me how I could fix my father’s car. He told me to call my dad, so I did. My dad wasn’t angry. He’s amazing. He said it was an accident and accidents happen.”
That wasn’t the only time Steiner visited with Officer Hignite. In fact, Steiner credits Hignite with her decision to become a police officer. Now she serves as an SRO, working at Hellstern Middle School as well as Young and Hunt Elementary Schools.
“Officer Hignite is the reason I am on the Springdale police force,” Steiner says. “He was my law and public safety teacher in the Law Academy. He was always there for us. He built us up. That stuck with me. I decided one day I wanted to be in position where students could come to me just as we did to Officer Hignite.”
Now that she is an SRO, she’s had plenty of opportunities to visit with students. One example comes quickly to her mind.
“I’m in my fifth year at Hellstern,” says Steiner. “One girl from a few years ago moved from Springdale to Texas. She still keeps my updated on her grades and jobs. When she applies for jobs she uses me as a reference. She has always reached out to me. She’s 18 now and wants to go into law enforcement.
“Any time students reach out to me, it’s the best feeling. I try to make every interaction with students positive. That’s what they will remember. That’s why even if it’s helping them get a ball off the roof or translating for them (Steiner is fluent in English and Spanish), I always want to be positive.”
Steiner’s intent is to make a difference in the lives of the students, teachers and staff she interacts with. Her parents laid the framework for her desire to be a difference maker.
“My mom and dad moved to California from El Salvador when they were teenagers,” Steiner explains of her parents, Samuel and Milagro Tejada. “They are grateful they have lived the American dream. So, every year they go back to El Salvador and donate clothes, shoes and school supplies. They have taught me what it means to give back.”
The community Steiner loves giving back to is Springdale. Her family moved to Springdale when she was five years old and she is quick to say, “Springdale is home. I went to George Elementary from first through fourth grade, then Harp Elementary for fifth grade, J.O. Kelly Middle School, George Junior High and Springdale High School. Then I went to the University of Arkansas, where I earned my degree.
At SHS she followed in the footsteps of Alex, who was a superstar kicker for the football team before becoming an outstanding placekicker for the Razorbacks.
“Since everyone knew Alex was my brother, I had to carry myself a certain way,” Steiner says. “Everyone knew him. Now that I am an officer, people talk to me rather than think of me as Alex’s sister.”
According to Steiner’s husband, Bob, everyone talks to his wife.
“My husband calls me ‘Mayor Millie’ because everywhere we go somebody talks to me,” Steiner says. “It’s especially nice when students recognize me out of uniform. It’s a great feeling when they are comfortable coming up to me away from school.”
Steiner likes everyone to be comfortable around her. It’s easy for her husband, who is a United States Marshall (“We met at work,” she says.) It’s just as easy for staffs at the schools where she works.
“I have a coffee pot in my office,” Steiner explains. “Counselors, custodians and other staff members know they can come have a cup of coffee with me.
“There’s a time to be nice and there is a time to go to work. I can go to work. At the end of the day it’s all about helping people.”
Helping people is what Milisa Steiner is all about. She and the entire staff of SROs that serve the district are among the reasons Springdale Public Schools are #THEChoice #SHShoutOut