Special to the Messenger
In the 1980s, Gadsden State Community College instructor George Terrell’s American History 201 and 202 classes included a pair of outstanding students in brothers Matthew and Mark Mills.
Fast-forward a few decades, and Terrell found himself teaching more members of the Mills’ family – Matthew’s twin sons Micah and Jonah and Mark’s son Austin.
The common theme among the Mills’ family members, according to Terrell, is that all of the MIlls have been great students.
“They blew the top off with their grades,” Terrell said of the three cousins he taught recently as dual enrollment students from Coosa Christian.
Matthew Mills has had four sons attend Gadsden State through the dual enrollment program. Of the four, Canaan and Micah and Jonah have had Terrell as an instructor. Matthew has two daughters and expects them to also participate in dual enrollment. Mark Mills’ oldest son, Austin, just completed his first year of dual enrollment classes at Gadsden State. Mark said his other children, who are entering the 10th, 9th and 8th grades, respectively, in the fall, may continue the tradition of dual enrollment at GSCC.
“They have been very productive for Gadsden State,” said Terrell jokingly of Matthew and Mark, noting that his former students have 10 children between them. Terrell said it may not be unusual that generation after generation of a family further their educations at Gadsden State, but he does think that it was quite a coincidence that so many of the Mills’ ended up in his class. Or maybe not.
Just as he did to others after he had Terrell as an instructor, Matthew Mills said he recommended that his children take classes with Terrell if possible. Matthew was interested in history, but it was not a passion for him.
Terrell’s class, however, was a good one for Matthew.
“He made it interesting. I told them you won’t find a better teacher than him. We love Mr. Terrell,” adding that he did physical therapy on Terrell recently for a severe elbow injury. After Gadsden State, Matthew Mills went on to get a doctorate in physical therapy and is now a therapist at Rehab Partners.
His brother Mark, who was a student at Gadsden State in the mid-80s, continued his education at Auburn, in engineering. He currently has a contracting business in Gadsden. Like Matthew, he has positive memories of Gadsden State, including classes with Terrell and all the instructors he had while a student.
Those positive associations have continued into the next generation, as his son and nephews have made Gadsden State part of their educations. Dual enrollment will allow Austin and his cousins to accumulate approximately a year of college credit by the time they graduate high school. All three will be seniors at Coosa Christian next year.
When asked which generation produced the best students, Mark said he thought his son Austin is the better student.
“I’m sure Matthew’s kids are better students than he was,” although Mark did note that his brother went on to be the doctor of the family.
The members of the younger generation have been pleased with the Gadsden State experience. Austin said he’s enjoyed his dual enrollment classes, finding them more challenging than high school classes. He said he’s not sure what his plans for the future are, but feels his dual enrollment classes have given him some inside knowledge.
“I have a better idea what college is going to be like,” said Austin with regard to his Gadsden State classes.
Jonah said he enjoyed getting to spend time with his brother and cousin when they had classes together at Gadsden State.
He said also he and his brother enjoyed the structure of dual enrollment classes – meeting twice per week, rather than every day – and the fact that they will have college credit upon graduation.
Jonah said that his dad and his older brother had recommended classes with George Terrell when he and Micah were enrolling.
The advice was appreciated.
“We really liked his class,” said Jonah. “It was fun.”