A One on One with Mr. Mills

Elias Kotsis, Editor

Q: What subjects and classes do you teach?

A: I teach Italian I, Italian II, and Italian IV Honors.

Q: Why did you decide to become a teacher?

A: Even though my career as a VBA/Excel programmer in the financial field was going well at the time, 1998 was the first time I seriously thought about becoming an Italian Teacher.  At that time, one of New Jersey’s requirements for Italian Teacher Certification was passing the Italian Praxis Test.  Consequently, I took it and was pleased a few weeks later to find out I passed it.  However, since my VBA/Excel Programmer job was going well, I figured, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and I decided to put the Italian Teacher thing on the back burner.  Then, in 2007, the job market completely dried up and millions of jobs simply disappeared.  Much to my chagrin, one of them was mine, so I decided to make a career change.

Q: When you are not teaching what do you enjoy doing?

A:  I have ten nieces and nephews and I love spending time with them.  Like my family before them, they are all being raised right here in Middletown.  Since I played football at the University of Pennsylvania, I really enjoy going to Franklin Field to cheer on the current Penn Quaker football team.  I also try to attend a few Penn basketball games every season as well.  I love to cook too.  My specialty is penne pasta with vodka sauce.  It’s a Rachel Ray recipe that’s both affordable and delicious, and you could find it on foodnetwork.com.  Finally, I enjoy changing the lyrics to current songs in order to explain Italian concepts to my students in a more enjoyable way.  My first effort of note was two years ago when (I believe) I improved on Katy Perry’s Firework.  It’s now called “–ARE Verb”.  Since one of my Elizabeth High School students recorded it, you could see me perform it on YouTube.com, just do a keyword search on: Mr. Mills.

Q: Are there any interesting facts you think the MHSS student body should know about you?

A: One of the main reasons I was able to become an Italian Teacher is because one of the graduation requirements of the College of Arts & Sciences at my school was that every student pass a rigorous proficiency exam in a language other than English.  Indeed, when I was a college freshman, I did not like foreign languages at all.  So, to all my Middletown South Italian students and friends, feel free to send your thank you cards and boxes of chocolate-covered strawberries to the Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences c/o the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, 19104.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: Yes, I lived and worked in Italy from September, 1992 until June, 1993.  Even though I had relocated to Milan with no friends there, no family there, no work visa, and no residence permit, I was lucky enough to find a job after living in a hotel for two months.  I was able to secure a position as an American-English Teacher at a language school called Inlingua, which at the time, was as ubiquitous in Europe as Starbucks is today in the US.  It was not a traditional school.  Rather, it was a school that catered to Italian businesspeople, who needed to learn American-English (as opposed to “English”, which apparently they speak in the UK) for their jobs.  Here is a brief example of the difference I’m speaking about.  In London, you drive a “lorry”, rent a “flat” and take “the tube”; in New York however, you drive a “truck”, rent an “apartment” and take “the subway”.  Since I was the only American at the school, they used to advertise that their clients could learn “American-English from a real American”.  As a result, my students tended to be Italian businesspeople who worked for Italian subsidiaries of American companies and wanted to hear my “American” accent instead of the British one most of them had grown up speaking and listening to.  My students worked for Oracle Italia, IBM Italia, Kodak Italia, Disney Italia, etc.  I was also an Official Interpreter for World Cup USA ’94 at Giants Stadium, where the Italian Team played the vast majority of their games.

Finally, thank you for letting me use The Eagle Eye as a vehicle through which I could introduce myself to the entire Middletown South community.