Teacher honored after 75 years in the classroom

Paul Miller has taught math for many years but never kept count.

On Thursday, Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. awarded Miller, 93, a calculus teacher at Ner Israel High School, for his 75th year of teaching and congratulated him on his "great influence" on so many students over the years while supporting his own family.

"I never kept count," Miller said. "It's something that you do to see the finished product."

Miller was 18 when he began teaching in 1934 after attending teachers college at what is now Towson University. And during his lengthy career he has taught at numerous schools, from public elementary schools to universities.

He holds a master's degree in math from the Johns Hopkins University, where he remained on the faculty for 40 years. He's also taught at Southern High School, Goucher College, Loyola University, Towson University, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore City Community College, and the Essex and Catonsville campuses of Community College of Baltimore County.

Miller continues to teach at Ner Israel High School, where he has been for 51 years.

There, Miller said, his students have religious studies in the morning and then lunch. By his class in the afternoon, "they are pooped out and I've got to use incentives. So I always try to tell them stories," he said.

He said his students have not changed much from when he began teaching, but he said they rely more on technology. "When you asked them four times five, they take out a calculator," he said. But "we live in a world that is all mathematics."

Miller has taught thousands of students, spanning several generations, and his children can't ever remember his taking sick. Even in the summer months, when school was out, Dr. Sam Miller said, his father would assign the kids math problems.

Miller and his late wife, Frieda Lapidus Miller, raised seven children. Five of the kids took careers as medical doctors, one is a computer engineer and another is a nurse. Miller is a math tutor to all 16 grandchildren.

"Education was considered a priority," said Sam's sister, Dr. Lisa Miller, a podiatrist. And the emphasis on education was taught to his students.

"People will stop and say, 'I wouldn't be a pharmacist if it wasn't for him,' or 'I wouldn't have graduated college if it weren't for him,' " she said.

Her husband, Dr. Michael Miller, said the family tried to get his father-in-law listed in the Guinness World Records for having the longest teaching career, but he missed out to a Brazilian woman who began teaching when she was 12. But Lisa Miller said that "he should be a shoo-in" for the National Teachers Hall of Fame.

She said the family, who mostly live in Pikesville, find Miller's former students all over, but she was especially touched when she read a blog post by a stranger and former Miller student.

Eliyahu Fink, a blogger for the Pacific Jewish Center in Venice, Calif., wrote, "I am being completely honest when I say, I never had a math teacher as good as Mr. Miller. He said the funniest things and had us absolutely spellbound. … I think the best lesson Mr. Miller taught us is that if you love what you do, you can do it forever."

When asked if he planned to retire anytime soon, Miller said, "Only if they kick me out."

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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