One of the most impactful teachers I ever had – Milty, the importance of being real

In the spirit of Teacher Appreciation Week, I would like to share unpremeditated students’ voices on the alchemy of learning with a teacher who made a difference.

Throughout his life, Ted Miltenberger, also known as Milty, an English and theatre teacher at the American School of Paris, wove a web of humanity, empathy, passion and rigor that infused all of his work and the performances he guided and facilitated. His love of teaching, his charisma and ingenuity were infectious; he had the gift of channelling his students’ creative energy into a productive “ensemble” where process mattered more than product. 

When the news of Milty’s passing spread through the Facebook alumni pages, a spontaneous outburst of some 200+ postings rose as a poignant tribute to his lifelong impact on students.They reflect unforgotten moments of wit, wisdom, and inspiration, some of which go back to more than thirty years ago.

I have taken the time to compile some of those responses because they struck me as a rare testimony to the importance of being real. Real, as in no disconnect between what Ted believed and what he practiced. This essential quality of authenticity is rarely mentioned in teacher training; it cannot be taught, it comes from within and lies at the very heart of teaching; students recognize it straight away and they remember:

Joanna: Milty, Ted Miltenberger, was like to many others, a most incredible mentor to me in my early theatre days. He taught us to leave our emotional baggage at the door- that we’d then joke about tripping over. He supported our various dreams but then challenged us in really surprising ways…One day we were supposed to dress up like what we wanted to be when we grew up. Kimm: wanted to be a mother, Dennis a soldier, while Milty himself was dressed as the ice cream man. Obviously we’re very touched by the speech Milty made for us. If only we had iphones in 1993 I’d be able to remember what he said. I remember the feeling at least. He’s going to have such a blast in Heaven!

Ania: What an inspiration he was to so many of us!

Kimm: Milty was easily one of the most impactful teachers I ever had. I feel crushed by the news. You are so loved by many. Creative drama is a life-enhancing practice. It reconnects us to that shining life force that resides in all of us, and empowers us to discover and witness our natural sources of power and empathy. In these Drama for Life workshops, we journey through the rich landscape of theatre – playing, improvising, acting – and experiment with a variety of drama techniques that connect us to our endlessly nourishing wells of creativity and spontaneity.

John: We all know great people in our lives, people who were silent mentors or just amazing people. Ted Miltenberger was one of those. He gave us great memories but more importantly…he was a great friend. We learned about more than just what he taught in the classroom.

Michael: He was always such a positive presence around the campus and will forever be remembered and cherished.

Kathleen: Always smiling!

Dane: Milty is the reason I care about the theatre so much.

Sean: You were the first teacher I had on my first day at ASP. I fell in love with your teaching and the school itself instantly. Thank you so much for everything.

Noelle: He was a bright light at ASP his enthusiasm was catching. He will be missed.

Susan: Milty, believe it or not, taught me how to really write.

Kelly: Oh no! John, Rocky, Dan, Bisan, Dahlia… and everyone else who I did theater with… This is so sad. We must find a way to pay tribute to this wonderful man.

Dahlia: I am shocked and so sad… I have no words… I always felt Milty would live forever somehow…

John: Devastated. Milty. One in a million.

Kelly: I’m gutted.

Rocky: Wow, he was a defining figure in my (our) high school experience. Very sad to lose him. I think he was the first adult I counted among my friends.

Kelly: Me too, Rocky. He was the adult who told the truth, but not in a way that reduced it or made the world seem depressing.

Kimm: I feel the same way. The first adult I felt was a true friend. Knowing him was unbelievably impactful to my life.

Ross: Taught me how to center myself. Taught me to improvise. Taught me about group dynamics. Taught me to take the classes I love.

Kristin: Best teacher I’ve ever had!

Claudia: Such an amazingly bright and energetic person left us. He was a great teacher! Will never forgot how he encourage me.

Christine: What a beautiful person and the reason I followed my dream and went to LA to act. I’ll miss his smile.

Erum: What a wonderful man. He taught us to question ourselves. He was a such a core part of the ASP experience for me.

Wendy: I will never forget the man who encouraged me to shine and work so hard. He is the reason I love the theater… Especially musical theater.

Charles: So many memories of him flooding to me now – Russia trip, setting up an impromptu display of singing glasnost (without a trained voice anywhere), and on the set of Working, teaching how to get the routine exactly right.

Laura: One of the most memorable teachers I ever had.

Reza: What a wonderful light he was for us all.

Andrea: Such a life force was Milty. He brought the world of drama and English to life for me in the two years I knew him.

Dale: A friend and mentor Ted Miltenberger. He taught me to think outside the box, he taught me to observe what was going on around me, he reminded me that life is not about work work work all the time. If not for Milty I would not be who and where I am today. Take care my friend…

Michele: I can truly say that my life and my son’s life would not have been the same without Ted Miltenberger. He was a wonderful teacher and mentor to me in high school and he ignited my love of musical theatre. A love which I passed on to my son, now a musical theatre BFA student. May you rest in peace Milty.

Eric: One of the great influences in my teenage years. Love this man – to me, immortal.

Alison: So many times I have smiled to myself in a rehearsal or just in regular everyday life and thought, “Milty taught me how to do that.” Professionalism, character development, stagecraft, improvisation, ensemble. You never accepted less than our best. You had a huge heart. I will always remember you. Thank you, Milty, rest in peace.

John: There are no words. He was an inspiration.

Dahlia: I have no words either…. Remember the theatre and those times and his infectious spirit and laugh? He is immortal to me…

Lindsay: I’m so glad I got to tell him what a huge influence he had on me a few years ago. He was such an inspiration. I am so sad to hear about this. FYI Rebecca, Ned, Rodrigo, Megan, Brud, Gaelle… We had such fun with Milty, n’est-pas?

Ned: I still use the principles of ensemble & self-regulation we practiced with him:…(

Robert: One of my most memorable classroom experiences ever…One day, out of frustration of people using “alot”, he jumped up on the desk and shouted at the top of his lungs “It’s not pronounced alot!” emphasizing the lack of space between the two words with his pronunciation. “It’s two words people! It always has been and always will be!” As the first and last time I have ever seen a teacher jump up onto a desk, it burned a memory into my brain. For years I could not come up on the words without thinking of him, as I’m sure is the same for everyone in that class, on that day. A true teaching treasure.

Paloma: He gave me such a love for the theater. So sad to hear to this.

Mim: Aww man. Milty was wonderful And perfectly created to be a drama professional. Decimating news.

Andre: Milty… thanks for everything you did for me.

Jeffery: He enriched my life in so many ways…

Rocky: Full of mischief!

A.J: He was my hero and mentor. Thanks Milty.

Carina: You were such a fun teacher to work with!

Kelly: Milty improvising with me outside the theatre, circa 1993… I still have the green and white binder for IB High Theatre. Have never been able to throw it away.

David: So much dedication and Humility!

Stephanie: I still have my IB Extended Essay, written under his supervision: “The Crucible and A Doll’s House as Reflections of their Respective Societies.” Will never toss it.

Orn: He was such an inspirational and charismatic man – unforgettable.

David: He was one hell of a director and an even better person. His empathy and compassion were contagious. I’ll miss you, Milty.

Morgan: I was just talking about him a couple of weeks ago and reminiscing about how great ensemble theater was with him when I was in middle school. Such a loss.

Dahlia: He laid the foundations for my falling in love with theatre and making it my life’s work. He taught me everything I know about it. My work today is completely inspired by his spirit. Very sad. Rest in peace, Milty. We love you, you are unforgettable.

Valérie: He gave me love for theater and whenever I teach it, I also think of him.

Dahlia: Yes me too!

Ken: He was an inspiration to me during my teaching career as he taught me to connect the material to my students’ lives. I even copied his classroom setup.

Goly: He had such presence, energy and positive attitude. He was a joy to be around. May you be received with a lot of song, dance and standing ovations!

Johanna: Dear Milty, Thank you for all inspiration, energy and sharing your love for musicals, theatre and literature, you truly had a great part in forming our lives, which is giving waves in the next generation.

Hyo-Jung: Oh Milty!!! .My true mentor my inspiration, you helped me so much by believing in me.

Christiaan: My heart is crushed… Milty was one of the best teachers I ever had! He taught me to truly appreciate literature and the arts on a new level, to not just watch and listen, but experience! But far more than that, he taught me to always be true to yourself, no matter what challenges you face in life… Those lessons have served me better than any advice anyone has ever given me, thank you old friend, rest in peace!

Shabnam: I’ll never forget how warmly you welcomed me, the theatre newbie, into your class. Somehow you made me feel like I belonged. You are one of those teachers that made ASP the special place it is. So long.

Edna: I have such fond memories of all my theatre classes with him. He was an amazing teacher. Thank you for everything you taught me.

Tammy: I am so saddened to hear this news. He meant so much to every life he touched.

Abbas: You were one of a kind– part of a handful of teachers who were more than just teachers. Thank you for inspiring us, instilling the magic within us and challenging us to dream.

Laura: My very first musical . What a wonderful man. One of the best things to ever come out of Kalamazoo.

Brud: Milty had a profound impact on my life… He was my first mentor and cast me in my first show. That led to a professional life in the theater for the majority of my adult life. The heavens are embracing one of the great ones today.

Karen: SO grateful to have been in his 1987 ASP production of Pippin – it made my senior year!

David: He must have loved Pippin because he did it with us in ~’82. “But Sire, that is unjust and tyrannical.” He made me own that line.

Yolaine: Cry, no words.

FX: Best english teacher ever.

Peachey: Mr Miltenberger was inspired and inspiring. My appreciation of theater will eternally be rooted in memories of Ted. So saddened by this news.

Tamara: Milty! Part of the glue of ASP who made everyone welcome!

Sarah: He was such an inspiration to me. Some of my best ASP memories were from his class and performing in school plays.

Xtina: Ahh, Milty. Effervescent and contagious. Quite a heterogeneous group he impacted. So many memories..hauling those cubes all over Amsterdam and back for Working, introducing us (literally) to Peter Brook and the Mahabharata, carafes at the cafe across the street from school, Hermitage museum excursions… His cheeky smile will be missed.

Claudine: He made us all feel special! Great man!

Joe: Milty a Great man and an Amazing spirit. By far my favorite teacher at ASP. I will miss you. Thank You for your wisdom and love and above all your laughter.

Dahlia: Those Peter Brook lines still ring out. First time I heard them was from him.

Kelly: Hear, hear. We should definitely have a memorial tribute of some kind and rename the theater in his honor.

Lindsay: I concur! He was the epitome of a phenomenal teacher, no better inspiration for young theatre students!

Desi: The privilege of being part of ASP’s music and theatre talent created was the greatest gift ASP gave me during my time there. They’ve inspired a passion in so many to appreciate the arts; what a beautiful kind of legacy to leave us.

Sandy: Such a light in this world, so sad it has dimmed but it will never burn out. His legacy lives on his students.

Catherine: Milty: The man from Kokomo. Irreverent. Acerbic wit. Dynamic, arms in constant motion. Through 8 years of high school & college, I found refuge in the theater; it was the only place I felt capable & confident. Milty created a safe haven for those who felt they didn’t belong; he treated us as equals; eyed us with affectionate humor and helped us hone a craft which made us feel proud and nurtured our confidence. Thank you, and rest in peace.

Kelly: As my classmates and I come to terms with the unexpected death of one of our greatest mentors, Ted Miltenberger, I’ve been reflecting on how theater is one of the few subjects that truly does teach you about yourself while guiding you through disciplines. Thank you, Milty, aka Ted Miltenberger.

Joanna: I adored that man. A Twist in the Tale, ASP Theatre, ’91/’92, written & directed by Ted Miltenberger .Those were the days! Such fun we had on that stage…

Dahlia: I think you were all in “Boundaries” or “Our Town”, while me and some others were in this one… And we had that amazing musician/piano player Greg and that choreographer… Sally!

Doris: Strangers in the night… I still remember singing that while we walked down the stairs to the stage!

John:  “We started out/thinking we were free/then we were told/what to be”.  What a call to arms for all kids given the opportunity of a lifetime to go to an international school in one of the greatest cities on earth!

Dahlia: Yes. What a powerful call to arms indeed. Those were the days. Goosebumps.

Kelly: The original lyrics were We started out/thinking we were free/now our eyes are open/we can finally see….we’ve NO boundaries.

Bisan: Incredible memories. What a group of people, what a teacher. These are our boouuuundaries!!!

Dahlia: Woohoooo! That song got me every.single.time. Tears and chills, I swear.

Jay: Merci Milty

 

Photo credit: Bill Leahy

One thought on “One of the most impactful teachers I ever had – Milty, the importance of being real

  1. Milty was everything to people of all ages. A true Renaissance man. Love him and now his memory dearly as a mother of three whom he taught so very much about life.

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