Miller never folds the tent: Teacher of the Year 2016

Photo credit: Michelle Bernabe

While some may know him as the wrestling coach, and others simply as Mr. Miller, Gail Miller is one of the more well-known faces on campus. Continuing a legacy preceded by Mr. Bird and Mr. Curry, Mr. Miller was recently named one of the PUSD teachers of the year.

“This was both flattering and humbling because of all the great teachers we have here; just to be recognized and put on the ballot was great,” Miller said. “I think I’m a reflection of the staff. I don’t feel like I’m the innovative teacher who’s bringing the new ideas or techniques.”

He is quick to mention the many MC teachers and faculty as people who have influenced him in his career.

“Working with so many former teachers of the year that are in the faculty lounge- you can just talk to anyone from the the whole spectrum of curriculum.,” he said. “You learn from each other and that’s ultimately what we’re always trying to do.”

Teaching has provided an outlet for both Miller’s technical knowledge and passion for helping others. As a teacher of human biology, freshman biology, and even zoology at one point, Miller is also well versed in many different aspects of science.

“Going to Cal Poly with a bio major, the internships and co-ops that were available for example, were a camp counselor job or  working in a biotech lab using an autoclave to sterilize test tubes. I thought to myself, I really don’t see myself in that environment,” he said.“So teaching was a great way to balance those two things.”

Miller is certainly no stranger to PQ. As an alumni of MC, he also attended Sundance Elementary and Black Mountain Middle School. Even today, he lives only two and a half miles from the school.

“I can say to my students that I sat in those seats. I did the swim meet, I did the physics boats,” Miller said. “The kids have more buy-in and this is very much my home.  It is a place where I have very fond memories. It’s about the camaraderie, the sense of family, and that everyone seems to be hardworking, and values each other.”

It’s these same values that Miller works so hard to instill in his students.

“I try to teach them to work hard, and though you might fail, are you going to be resilient?” Miller said.  “Do you have that grit? Or are you going to fold the tent?  That’s the term we use in my class. I try to teach life lessons and give them some real world experience.”

Perhaps most importantly is the influence that this Teacher of the Year has in different parts of his students lives.

“Coaching is basically teaching, just on a different subject,” Miller said. “It’s on the mat for me. I try to do the best work that I can with the kids so I can reach them in both ways.”

Time and time again, Miller mentions the students who make his job so fulfilling.

“What’s amazing is working with kids, seeing them coming in sometimes as scrawny, immature freshmen who have no direction, then getting to work with them, ” he said. “It was something that I felt was more fulfilling than working in a lab or a cubicle.”

While all of these things have helped to make the teacher that Mr. Miller is today, this award comes as no surprise to the many students who have been influenced by this beloved teacher.

“The kids are genuine, the staff is great, and I really couldn’t ask for a better situation to teach in.”

Written by Shalom Fadullon

Shalom is a sophomore staff writer who loves chocolate covered pretzels and can commonly be found on the beach. She enjoys swimming, playing guitar, and is probably a little sunburned.

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