Forever Onward


Photo provided by Amanda Caputo

Former student Amanda Caputo, taking a picture with beloved science teacher Bob McMillen.

Written by Jenn Glazebrook, Brittany Nelson, and Lorallye Partlow

Mr. Bob McMillen, earth science and astronomy teacher at Woodgrove, passed away on March 28, 2017. Students and staff were shocked at the sudden loss of a man who was loved by so many.

McMillen graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Science Education from California University of Pennsylvania, and then received his Masters of Education degree from the University of Virginia. After having achieved his Masters, McMillen taught at the Blue Ridge Regional Science Governor’s School and was also an instructor of astronomy at UVA and Averett College. Before joining Woodgrove as a science teacher, Mr. McMillen also worked as a department chair and a planetarium director at Hayfield Secondary School in Fairfax.

In 1981, McMillen was picked as Virginia’s Earth Science Teacher of the Year. He also worked with gifted students as a science teacher in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he was also awarded soccer coach of the year in 2010.

The internet and social media were filled with student and staff tributes to Mr. McMillen.

Former student Amanda Caputo wrote,“This sweet soul was the funniest person you could meet. The most selfless and encouraging teacher to walk Woodgrove’s halls. Everyday, he had a quote on his board and taught us not just what was on the curriculum, but something deeper. It was always about caring and loving others. He always knew how to put a big smile on my face. Whether it was screaming at me for always being late and always asking to use the restroom, or telling me how nice I looked, or telling me how I shouldn’t just settle for any guy. I looked up to this man and forever will. His wisdom and advice will stick with me till the day I die. Heaven gained an angel today.”

Bob McMillen had a passion for astronomy, a passion that he loved sharing with his students. As of this school year, astronomy is an elective course offered to students because of his efforts. He also was a member of the Environmental Science Cohort with science teachers Mr. John Hoffman and Mrs. Janel Pidgeon.

His passion for the subject inspired others who worked with him.

“Mr. McMillen had such a love for his subject area and that inspired me to show the same love of my subject area to my students,” said Pidgeon. “He positively influenced so many people throughout his years as a teacher. Mr. McMillen was known for striving to make connections with his students; always checking in about their days and never failing to give someone a “fist-bump.”

Senior Dennis Potts said, “He was there for me when no one else was. Through some of my darkest times, he was always there for me to talk to, and after my junior year, we continued to be friends.”

McMillen had the rare quality of being able to pick up on anyone’s mood, making one feel welcome.

“Bob was usually the first person I saw when I arrived at school.  We’d say good morning to one another.  Minutes later, the copier would start having its usual problems, and Bob and I would combat the machine together.  He was so friendly, and so kind, and he made Woodgrove a very welcoming place for me when I first started teaching here,” said Woodgrove English teacher Bethany Harrar.

Students, staff members, and parents participated in the Redskins Draft Day Dash on April 29 with the hope of winning $10,000 to purchase a planetarium in his honor. It was McMillan’s hope to purchase a mobile planetarium for the use of Woodgrove’s students and for the use of the local elementary and middle school students.  The full amount has yet to be raised, and donations can be made to Woodgrove High School, Planetarium Fund.

In the words of Bob McMillen, ‘Forever Onward.’