NPC instructors really go the extra mile for their students. Especially Steve Mills! He’s among the best of the best master’s (age 40 and up) distance runners in America. He also goes to great distances for his students,
who receive the same enduring dedication and effort from him in the classroom. A former cross-country runner at Colorado State University, Mills teaches construction students at NPC’s Whiteriver Center and supervises students who are building small living units for police and firefighter academy students at NPC’s Northeast Arizona Training Center in Taylor.
Mills taught industrial arts technical education, con-struction, welding and adult education at Alamo Navajo Community School in Alamo, N.M., for 28 years, from 1986-2014. He and his wife Gail moved to Snowflake in 2014 because it’s centrally located for rodeos and her barrel races. NPC hired Mills later that year. He is also an instructor in NPC’s Career and College Preparation program, in which students earn their GED and prepare for college studies. The Whiteriver construction pro-gram is a new NPC program. He and fellow instructors Jorge Meza and Ken Wilk developed plans and teach-ing tools for the student-built residence centers in Taylor.
“I find it fulfilling to work with NPC students; they are really motivated to get a quality education and pre-
pare for their careers,” Mills says. “It allows me to go deeper into the subject and share my enthusiasm with them. I teach them the skills they need to market themselves to employers, and I also help them with job hunting.” He currently has 20 construction students at the NPC Whiteriver Center ranging in age from 18-55.
During his senior year as a student at Colorado State, Mills was diagnosed with type I diabetes, forcing him to give up distance running for 25 years. He gained weight during that time away from the sport, and by the time he was 45, a doctor warned him to lose weight or he would be at risk of dying. So Mills resumed distance running again and shed the weight.
“I ran my first race three months after resuming running and caught the competitive fire again,” Mills says. Now 56, he’s running everything from short races like the 1,500 meters to the half-marathon. He’s hired a running coach from Flagstaff and logs 45-60 miles a week in his workouts. That’s somewhere between 2,300 and 3,100 miles per year! In this year’s U.S. Masters Outdoor Championships track meet in Spokane, he fin-ished third among men in the 55-59 age division in the 10,000 meters — less than three minutes from winning the national championship! He’ll get another shot at a national title next July in the U.S. master’s division championships in Ames, Iowa.
Mills says, “I plan to run as long as I can go.” Don’t expect him to stop going the distance — in the classroom for his students or on the master’s racing circuit — any time soon.