A chip off the old block


Photo by: Serena Sotelo

Mr Mills, who will retire at the end of the school year, helps a student with a project in his sixth period wood shop class.

Three Cam High teachers have announced their intent to retire this year: Mr. John Mills, Mr. Bruce Ritchey, and Mr. Joe Carroll. The Stinger will be covering each teacher’s profile separately, beginning with Mills.

Whether it be the whirl of helicopter blades or the hum of a wood lathe, Mr. John ‘Chip’ Mills has heard it all.

Mills, industrial technology teacher, will be retiring at the end of the 2015-2016 school year, concluding his four year tenure at Cam High. After his career as a teacher, he is ready for a change that offers more flexibility and a routine in which he will no longer “live by the bell.”

Mills first entered the working world at age 12. He babysat two nights during the week, did landscaping on Saturdays, and washed windows in his father’s store on Sundays. Once he was old enough to get a permit, he balanced working in the construction industry with playing sports throughout his high school and college years.

For 22 years, Mills was an active duty serviceman in the United States Navy, eventually retiring as an executive officer of Naval Air Station China Lake at the rank of Commander. “I was never bored a single day in 22 years,” he said. “It was a great life and first career.”

Mills was also a senior search and rescue pilot for the naval base, in which he oversaw 1500 military and 2500 civilian personnel. Some of his duties included training those on base and monitoring safety and security.  The area included over 3,000 buildings where the navy was responsible for the security of some of the nation’s most guarded secrets, Mills said. “The excitement of naval aviation never got old,” he said.

Life in the Navy brought Mills around that world. “I made deployments in the Atlantic, Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and two five-month deployments to Antarctica,” he said. He also furthered his education at the Air Force War College in Alabama before moving to Italy, where he served with NATO for three years.

Mills spent a lot of time away from his family, but the joy in watching his daughters play with their friends inspired him to take up teaching.

Having had years of experience in construction and the Navy, Mills first turned to teaching a Navy Junior ROTC class at El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills and managed to incorporate woodworking in during his Prep Period. He also began to teach adults the skills of woodworking at night. Prior to transferring to Cam High in 2012, Mills taught at Hueneme High School. Once at Cam High he assumed a position teaching CADD (computer-aided design and drafting) and woodworking.

The woodworking class provided opportunities for students to apply what they have learned in the textbook to a real world application. “To see someone take an idea from paper and make something usable and beautiful, I never tire of that,” said Mills.

Junior Hunter Leyva appreciates Mills’s one-on-one instruction. “Even though I just came into this class he is a phenomenal teacher,” said Leyva, a Newbury Park transfer, adding that Mills is the “best woodshop teacher I know.”

“I mess up a lot, but he has always been understanding,” said Maddi Boulais, junior. She said she will miss Mills and that she appreciates his kindness and willingness to assist her.

Mills’s retirement plans for the future include traveling, playing golf, and starting his own business called Mills Woodworking. He still plans to be involved with the Cam High community in the future. “I don’t plan on being a stranger,” he said. “I don’t look at this like a goodbye.”