Kurt Miller and his legacy at Foothill Tech


Luigirey Guce

Kurt Miller stands and embraces one of his favorite artists Harry Styles in front of his class group project. This ‘23 school year will be Miller’s last year of teaching at Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech). Miller teaches ninth grade health, tenth grade world history, and the advisor for DTech. He is well known around Foothill Tech having the nickname “Dictator Miller” and still lives up to its name today. He will continue his teaching journey at Carpinteria High School (Carpinteria) after teaching 11 years at Foothill Tech.

Caroline Hubner, Writer

As the school year comes to a close, many students say goodbye to their friends and favorite teachers. However, students of beloved Design and Technology (DTech) program adviser, freshman Health teacher and sophomore World History teacher, Kurt Miller, will have to say goodbye on a more permanent basis, as Miller will no longer work at Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech) come fall. 

Miller began his tenure at Foothill Tech in 2012 as a freshman geography/health and a senior government/economics teacher. According to Miller, he did not initially intend on becoming a teacher, in fact, he actually resisted the idea, but while working on a commercial salmon fishing boat off the coast of Alaska, he came to the realization that all his jobs had revolved around teaching in one form or another. 

“I don’t want to sound metaphysical or anything, but I think it was destiny,” is how Miller described his epiphany, shortly after joking that his favorite aspect of teaching is “June, July and August.”

It’s the students who I think defined my experience.

— Kurt Miller

When asked about his favorite subject to teach at Foothill Tech, Miller perked up and excitedly explained, “World History is a class I love to teach because I was trained as a history teacher, but I think it is pretty obvious to everyone that DTech is my baby. I, along with [Yiu Hung] Li, built the course from nothing.”

Miller spearheaded the creation of DTech at Foothill Tech back in 2015, in hopes of it operating similarly to the BioScience Academy, another program on campus. However, DTech rose to its current status from humble beginnings, as it originally existed as a club, before turning into a class offered during FIRE and finally into a full-fledged, three-year program that has brought in over $200,000 worth of equipment through CTE (Career Technical Education) grants and sold over $36,000 worth of student made merchandise. 

Yiu Hung Li, the senior DTech teacher and soon to be adviser of the program, added, “[DTech] is a homegrown, Ventura brewed, grassroots, true and authentic academy that is one of a kind. That is [Miller’s] legacy and it’s one that the district, students, parents and the community have never seen, and will continue to find value in for a long time.”

Reflecting on his years as the DTech adviser, Miller explained one of his favorite projects to assign, dubbed the “House Joust.” Similar to BioScience Olympics, a House Joust is a competition between the different houses of DTech, and includes a series of unique design challenges. “For example [one challenge would be] ‘build me a cardboard throne without tape or glue,’ and then I would sit on them and fall. Those things stand out for their craziness,” Miller reminisced. 

We are losing a brilliant guy who was willing to be under the radar and make his magic happen.

— Yiu Hung Li

Next fall, Miller will be teaching history and building a new engineering, science and art program at Carpinteria High School. His decision to move arose from a need to be closer to his family, who currently reside in Carpinteria. Miller expanded, “Now that both of my boys are in elementary school, I receive ten million parent square messages because someone always has a runny nose or a cough, and I have to be close. That’s just my parents’ duty.”

Along with Li as the new adviser, DTech saw a flurry of changes this year including the decision not to accept a new cohort of students, and the addition of Brooke Johnson as a new DTech instructor. When asked about the future of DTech, Miller said, “Next year will be a year of transition. . .  Mr. Li will be in charge, which is good. He is the ultimate hype man.”

However, despite these changes, Miller remains confident that DTech will continue to be a solid and impactful program for Foothill Tech Dragons “. . . because students understand the power of their own learning. We are very clear about the fact that students have the power to learn as much as they possibly can and they do not need some sort of gatekeeper to filter information and spoon feed them.”

When asked about his feelings regarding Miller’s move, Li cheerfully commented, “He’s like my little brother and I am going to miss him. [Miller is] modest, brilliant and grounded. I don’t think Foothill is going to be the same without him.”

Miller finished the interview with a general declaration of thanks to the staff, sharing his appreciation for their tolerance and support. “I want to thank all of the teachers for giving me the space to experiment and do strange, but fun, things with the students,” he concluded. 

There is no doubt that Miller will be a missed presence on campus, from his eclectic personality, to his willingness to have fun with students. Make sure to bid farewell and good luck to Miller as he transitions from a Foothill Tech Dragon to a Carpinteria High Warrior. 

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