“Dedicated, professional, and caring”: Millie Milstead’s legacy

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Rod Milstead

Despite her passing, Millie’s effervescent spirit lives on through her friends and family at AWHS. Her husband, Rod, remembers her as a kind and supportive teacher who enjoyed spending time with her students. “She relished running into kids in town, she relished going to a sporting event and seeing her students there, and encouraging students that weren’t hers yet ‘Hey, try chemistry,’” Rod said.

In June 2020, we lost an admired member of our school and local community. Millie Milstead, a beloved Archie Williams High School (AWHS) chemistry teacher, passed away suddenly at the age of 57. Although she is no longer with us, Millie’s legacy can still be felt in the halls and classrooms of AWHS.

Rod Milstead, Millie’s husband, describes his wife as “dedicated, professional, and caring.” Millie was the person who initially encouraged Rod to become a teacher at AWHS, a position he has kept for 21 years. 

“As we became close I realized ‘this teaching thing is great, I should really try this.’ She helped me find an open position here at Drake, now Archie, and here we are, 21 years later. So I owe it to her,” Rod said.

A SoCal native, Millie attended San Diego State University for two years before transferring to Cal State Long Beach. According to Rod, Millie’s professors saw in her an incredible potential in teaching, and encouraged her to consider getting a teaching degree at the age of 22.

She was always looking out for the good of her students and making sure we understood what she was teaching”

— Danica Cieply

Millie, an avid sports fan, could be found watching her kids’ baseball games and working as a team parent to record players’ statistics and game scores. Millie fostered relationships with her students by becoming familiar with their extracurricular activities to create meaningful individual conversation.

“It was a genuine effort and love for [connection], but it was also done intentionally so that for each student, especially one who wasn’t having an awesome day in chemistry that day, she could say…‘Hey, how was your water polo game? How did mountain biking go?’” Rod said.

Mary Buchanan, AWHS chemistry teacher, met Millie in 1995 when they worked together at San Rafael High School (SRHS). While there, the duo shared the same classroom, as well as the same passion for teaching chemistry. Although they eventually moved on from SRHS, Millie to Redwood High School and Buchanan to AWHS, they remained connected.

According to Buchanan, Millie’s greatest strength was her bond with students.  Buchanan says that student-teacher relationships are vital in a school setting, especially in a difficult subject like chemistry. 

“People thought they could do [chemistry]… even though it was hard. [Students] enjoyed being in her class, and they just felt that they wanted to be around her,” Buchanan said. “She just cared so deeply for others.”

Danica Cieply, current senior at AWHS, had Millie as her chemistry teacher during her sophomore year. Danica remembers Millie as a “lively and engaging” teacher who made sure to regularly check in with her students.

“She was always looking out for the good of her students and making sure we understood what she was teaching,” Danica said.

Even after her passing, Millie Milstead’s selflessness and kindness continues to remain in the minds and hearts of AWHS staff and students, especially current seniors who were among the last to have had Millie as a teacher.