The Paideia School

Faculty Profile: David Millians '84

An Interview with Paideia alumnus and teacher, David Millians ‘84

How long have you taught at Paideia?
22 years

What ages do you teach?
10, 11, and 12 year olds.

Who have been all of your teaching partners to date?
Martha Alexander, Kate Padgett, and Becca McCauley.

What is does a perfect day in the classroom look like to you?
Everyone working on projects of all kinds, a gentle hum of activity.

What is the most important bit of advice you can give young parents as they embark on the education experience with their children?
Read and play!

Would you share one or two of the funniest and/or most interesting interactions in your classroom over the past few years?
Let's try one from the very beginning and one from very recently.

Every August before school begins, all of the teachers gather for a retreat to discuss educational topics and get revved for the new year. Sometimes these events occur off campus. My first year, we were all at Amicolola Falls. When I came down to breakfast the first morning, the person ahead of me in line was Tom Pearce, who had been my advisor and teacher just a few years before. Tom turned around, and the surprised look on his face was priceless. That was about all of the adjustment I had to join the faculty.

My students bring me laughter almost every day, usually more than once. This year I once again told several ghost stories of the 1509 Building - "Melissa" and "McRae" - to my class, and to my delight, they ran with them. There were the usual, though thankfully short-lived, excursions to the basement to look for bloody glove prints and other signs of McRae's evil lurkings. Soon, though, when something went missing or turned up in an unexpected place, Melissa, our benign attic ghost, got the credit, and it was as if they had happily added an additional student to the class, a little, lost girl that roamed through our shared lives. On occasion, Melissa became a convenient excuse for something done or undone. I almost always got the laugh first and then sent them on their way to correct "Melissa's" ways.

What is one of your favorite traditions that you have celebrated over the years?
Singing every morning to begin the day - We sing lots of American traditionals, plus our own quirky additions. The louder we sing, the better they sound.

What is your biggest challenge in the classroom?
Record keeping.

If you were not teaching, what would you be doing?
It's hard to imagine myself not teaching in some fashion, but I'd probably be working whatever jobs I could find and traveling in every part of the world I could reach.

What made you want to become a teacher?
I love learning. Teaching allows me to continue all sorts of studies, and best of all, my student ask the most interesting questions!

What was your educational experience like and how did it influence your decision to teach?
I went to Paideia from the age of five. I had wonderful, varied, insightful teachers, and they encouraged all of us to consider our own education. My professors in Swarthmore's education program encouraged me to do so as well.

Do you have a favorite teacher and did that person have anything to do with you becoming one?
I would have a hard time choosing a favorite teacher, as I've had so many amazing ones. They all shaped me as a life-long student. Much as I never know most of the ways that I have affected my own students, my teachers are probably unaware of how much they've meant to me as instructors and as models.

How has Paideia influenced you as a teacher?
Paideia supports me in my work. Day to day, I know that my colleagues believe in me. In the longer term, I've been able to attend conferences of my choosing, lead students to China, and develop whole new curricula based on what I think is valuable for my students.

How has Paideia changed while you have been on faculty?
It's grown somewhat larger in size, stretching down the block, adding some new positions and new faces, but it remains devoted to the cultivation of learning, for the students as well as their parents and teachers. This takes many forms and varies over time, but the school's strength lies in its thoughtful flexibility.

Do you have a favorite child's book? If so, what is it and why?
The Wizard of Oz brims with the imaginative spirit of childhood, which I've been able to retain in some part and which I work to encourage in my students.