My Thirty-Year Educational Crusade
I am retiring at the end of the 2022-2023 year. This blog will be a retrospective and a celebration of the things I have been a part of for the last 30 years. This is in no way intended to be melancholy or a journal of grievances. It is a celebration of the joy a teacher sees, hears, and feels over the time of a career. I will try not to preach and hope to encourage teachers and students to enjoy the time they have together. I can speak from experience that they are memories that will last a lifetime. These are my recollections and come from my perspective and I do not imply the thoughts or deeds of anyone else. As with any retrospective, I might have things a little off but I hope to offend no one or group as I undertake this adventure.
Teaching is a calling that demands a great deal from those that undertake the role of a teacher. The important thing to remember is that it is critical to look around and take all of it in as you pass through the lives of thousands of students. If someone takes on that role with anything less than the belief that it is a crusade, they do a disservice to their students and themselves. If I give the impression that this is a sacred path to walk, I will have been successful. I said in an interview in 1994 that “I go home every night exhausted but I can’t wait to get up and get to school the next day.” I have had the same philosophy and belief today. I regularly tell students that I don’t need an alarm clock because I wake up before it goes off so that I can get to work.
I plan on having a great deal of fun with this and I encourage you to come back often and follow the escapades that I have been a party to for 30 years. I hope it will bring you laughs, tears, and joy. I want to share with everyone the value of this profession. I hear complaints and frustration with the world outside of education and I understand and sometimes have the same feelings. If I focused on these feelings I would not have enjoyed the 30-year ride. Life may not be fair but I do believe it is balanced. Your outlook is determined by the side of the ledger you choose to focus on. I choose to focus on the great, laughter, and even the sadness that comes with working with students.
The last 30 years have been my crusade and the only fear I have is that I will not be able to continue the crusade after retiring. The time has come to move into a different phase of my crusade and let those behind me pick up the mantle and go forward. Just to be clear, over the 177 class days that I will post, I will name names and places! I will not embarrass anyone but I think t is important to the story that people know how important they have been to me. There are a few people that are worth mentioning specifically because they have had a huge impact as mentors and students. I will not list everyone because of space but I do want to mention a few people that have been inspirations above and beyond. I was recently asked in an in-service about what inspires me and without hesitation, I said that it was my students. In about year 3 of teaching, I discovered that if I was attentive that I could learn as much from students as they learned from me.
A short list of students and teachers that have inspired my journey. Please remember that this is not comprehensive and if I put the full list, it would be thousands of people long. Teachers and Educators in no particular order: Barb Smith, Cheryl Lico, Katherine Kelley, Debbie Backus, Debbie Gerkin, Susan DeCamp, Cathy Stanforth, Mrs. Truman, Mary Lou Midcap, Dorothy Carter, Marc Stine, Tammy Strouse, Sandy Scott, Ingrid Franklin, Rob Shurich, Mike Hamilton, Phil Underland, Jim Gochenour, James Laguana, Gwynn Moore, and Lisa Grosz. Students in no particular order: Lucas N, Leann W, Andres Q, Cassie M, Nabil D, Katie L, Adobe A, Sam N, Michelle H, Nathan B, Zach S, Selena G, Chris K, and thousands more. The most important inspiration as a teacher is my wife Dawn and as a student my daughter Kaila. Dawn has been teaching longer than I have and I can only hope to have half the compassion and love for students that she does. Kaila moved out of our house to go to the University of Wyoming and never came back. After graduation, she found a home at UW and has been an advocate for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and has become a forceful educator in her own right.
Reading and writing is a battleground upon which all elementary teachers toil. It sounds so civilized when said that way. It is a conflict that teachers face every day. Often the battle rages beyond our classrooms. Most cases pit modern or progressive ideas against “I learned it this way and so can my kid.” The struggle that the teachers face is how to balance what is suitable for the students. Most schools have a prescribed method of teaching in their classrooms and it is the teacher’s job to carry out that method. Some teachers are evangelists for programs and will go to their grave saying there is only one way to teach a classroom full of students. If you drill down with teachers their heart is much softer. Most teachers don’t care about what name you call it, as long as students learn to read and write. We often profess […]
Names are fun and they can have some humor. One day almost thirty years ago was particularly challenging. A problem that Montview has is the transiency rate of the school. We often had 50 or more kids rotate through our class in any given year. It was an opportunity to explore the concepts of taking kids from where they are and moving them ahead as fast as you can with the time you have. I also know that there are sometimes signs around us that are pointing to our fate. Having this bad day was made worse by the news that I had 2 kids who were transferring to another school. There was nothing new except that when I read the names I got an ominous feeling. The two students leaving were Moses and Jesus. I have had many students over the years from Hispanic families that used these names. […]
On day 33 I spoke of a poor role model. I want to now speak of a wonderful role model from the very same conference in Las Vegas. One of the speakers was Bob Villa who was on the show This Old House at the time. He was doing a talk on including trades into everyday classroom activities. At the time vocational courses were looked down upon. He gave a very compelling argument and was a strong advocate and spokesman for the trades. He was also serving as a spokesperson for Sears and their line of Craftsman tools. He told stories but also reminded us of the importance of science and math in the trades. My favorite story was of his daughter that had to build a house mock-up for a class. He said he wasn’t allowed in the basement and that he could only see it at school for […]
2021 - 2022 PLTW National Computer Science Teacher of the Year
PLTW recognizes outstanding teachers who inspire, engage, and empower their students by creating transformative learning experiences in their classrooms through PLTW programs
Aurora, Colorado – Rangeview High School teacher Randy Mills has earned the 2021-22 PLTW National Computer Science Teacher of the Year award, which recognizes educators who demonstrate a strong record of delivering an inspiring and empowering student experience, expanding access to PLTW programs, and transforming teaching. Randy was chosen from nominations received from across the U.S.
PLTW is honoring Randy for his work in the PLTW Computer Science pathway. Randy has been a teacher at Rangeview High School for twenty years and teaches Cybersecurity, Computer Science Essentials, and Introduction to Engineering Design. Randy Is also a Master Teacher for PLTW in Computer Science Essentials and Cybersecurity.
“Rangeview High School is proud of Randy Mills and his dedication to our students,” said RyAnn Nelson-Jaiyesimi “Randy is inspiring and we feel honored to have him as a teacher at Rangeview.”
Randy helped develop the Cybersecurity course and serves as one of the original Master Teachers for the course. He has been an advocate for underrepresented populations and has a passion for extending Computer Science and STEM to all students equally.
“Teachers and educational leaders perform one of the most critical functions in our society, and we are proud to work with these outstanding educators who are leaders in their classrooms and across the PLTW network,” said Dr. Vince Bertram, PLTW President and CEO. “Congratulations and thank you for your partnership in a shared commitment to empower our students to thrive in our evolving world even amidst the most challenging and unprecedented of times.”
2022 Aspirations in Computing Educator Award Winner
A thirty-year veteran of the Aurora Public Schools in Colorado. Randy has taught from 1st grade to postsecondary students. 20 Years at Rangeview has been highlighted by being a leading force for Computer Science and STEM. Randy has coached CyberPatriot teams for 12 years and taken 2 teams to the National Finals. Randy assisted with the PLTW development of the Cybersecurity course. Serving on the initial Advisory group and becoming a Master Teacher and teaching core training in 2018. Randy was awarded the National Computer Science Teacher of the Year for 2021-2022. Brought a Cybersecurity class to Rangeview five years ago and created a Technology Intern program for training students to move into internships in the industry. Randy has coordinated and taught a STEM camp at Rangeview for 8 years highlighted by cybersecurity classes. Randy has spent his career working to bring underrepresented populations into the Computer Science field.