Blazing a Trail

Former soccer star Laura Miguez-Howarth has become one of middle Tennessee’s most decorated educators

The Middle Tennessee women’s soccer program was still in its infancy back in 2004 after starting Division I competition just eight years earlier.

Laura Miguez-Howarth was one of the program’s early pioneers. When she completed her eligibility in 2004, the dynamic forward was the program’s all-time leader in assists, goals, and points.

That was 13 years ago, and yet Miguez-Howarth’s production on the soccer field still ranks her amongst MT’s leaders in all three categories. In fact, she remains the all-time leader in assists with 31, is third all-time in career points with 87, and ranks sixth in goals scored with 28. Perhaps more so than her statistics, though, Miguez-Howarth’s steadiness in clutch moments remains a big part of her legacy. Her seven game-winning goals rank her eighth on the all-time list in that crucial category.

Despite such on-field greatness and individual accolades, what Miguez-Howarth values most was being part of the program’s first Sun Belt championship in 2004.

“One of my favorite memories is becoming regular-season conference champions,” said Miguez-Howarth, who married former Middle Tennessee baseball standout Jason Howarth following graduation. “I remember a preseason team meeting with (Coach Aston Rhoden) when he shared that team goal for the season.”

“In all honesty, I don’t know that any of us believed it was 100 percent possible at that moment, but we knew we had a chance to be really good. Probably five to seven games into the season, you could tell that we really had a special team. It’s really special to be a small part of that history for the program.”


Life-Changing Experiences

Rhoden credits Miguez-Howarth with being one of the key players who helped steer the Middle Tennessee soccer program in the right direction.

“Laura was indeed a pioneer,” Rhoden said. “She was part of a group of players which helped change the path of our program over a three-year period and established a winning culture within the program.

“She was able to lead a team of exceptional players while still being extremely successful on the field herself. Laura was a very dynamic player and the type of forward that defenders hated playing against. She was very aggressive and would force defenders into mistakes due to her strong work ethic.”

That same work ethic has spilled over into Miguez-Howarth’s successful professional life. In addition to being the mom of two children (5-year-old son Austin and 1-year-old daughter Sophia), Miguez-Howarth serves as principal of KIPP Academy, a highly-regarded, college prep charter school in East Nashville. She began her professional career as a teacher at KIPP before being elevated to assistant principal and eventually principal.

Miguez-Howarth first realized she wanted to be an educator while at MTSU.

“My time at MTSU was lifechanging,” she said. “I would not be in the place I am today had it not been for many of my experiences and connections with great people I made there. Through my studies at MTSU, I was able to meet Dr. Shelley Thomas and learn about comprehensible input techniques for teaching foreign language. It was then that I started to think that I would be interested in teaching Spanish.”

Working with children and becoming an educator appear to be a perfect fit for Miguez-Howarth. “I have always enjoyed working with kids and working on high-performing teams,” Miguez-Howarth said. “I wanted a job and a career that were fulfilling in a meaningful way. It’s really important to me to do work that is powerful and can have an impact on the world in a positive way. I’ve been so blessed to have the opportunities I’ve had in life, and I am hopeful that I can help others have similar opportunities in their futures. Really, that’s what I believe education is all about.”

Nationally Recognized Educator

Miguez-Howarth is proving to be a trailblazer in her professional life. KIPP Academy is one of the top performing middle schools in the city of Nashville. This past year, Miguez-Howarth was named a 2016 Ryan Award winner—a national award honoring transformational school principals in urban areas in the United States. The award came with a $25,000 honorarium and a chance to teach her methodologies at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Under Miguez-Howarth’s leadership, KIPP Academy also was named a Tennessee Reward School as a result of having achieved student academic growth in the top 5 percentile in the state.

“I’m very humbled to be recognized for my work and the work of my amazing co-workers,” Miguez-Howarth said. “The day I was awarded the Ryan Award was one of the biggest surprises of my life. I think I have a great responsibility. I have the ability to have a greater impact on potential future leaders of great schools across the country as a result of this award.”

MTSU’s Rhoden is not surprised in the least by his former player’s success in her professional and personal life.

“Her drive to succeed, compete, and the love she has for people and life fits her role as an educator,” Rhoden said. “She has always been good at balancing her life as a student-athlete and continues to do so as a friend, principal, mother, and wife. Many years have gone by and yet some of her best friends today were once her teammates. Persons with her qualities will always be successful in life and whatever they choose to pursue.”

Clearly, just as she was doing on the soccer field and campus of MTSU as a bright student-athlete more than a decade ago, Miguez-Howarth continues to find ways to make a difference. RR


Leaving a Legacy

Laura Miguez-Howarth still ranks among the all-time leaders for MT soccer:

Rank     Category                        No.

1st         Assists                           31

3rd        Career points                  87

6th        Goals scored                   28

8th        Game-winning goals         7


by Tony Stinnett



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