Omar McMillan (’96)

Bethany alumnus Omar McMillan (’96) was named one of the ten finalists from across the state of Minnesota in the 2020 Teacher of the Year program. McMillan is a fourth-grade teacher at Richfield STEM School, and the head high school boys’ basketball coach for the Richfield Spartans varsity team.

McMillan was a scholarship basketball player for the Bethany Vikings during the 1994-‘95 and ’95-’96 seasons. Playing under the tutelage of head coach Art Westphal, McMillan was an impressive player on the court. He was both an All-Southern Division Minnesota Community College Conference (MCC) and All State-MCC selection. He averaged 14 points per game (ppg) and shot 62 per cent from the field as a freshman, and averaged 18 ppg. during his sophomore campaign.

Westphal recalled, “While an excellent player, Omar also had a great sense of humor. He always seemed to say the right thing at the right time. And even at nineteen-years-old, it was obvious that he had the personality to be a teacher someday.”

That sentiment from Westphal wasn’t lost on McMillan. He recalled a career-defining moment during his time at Bethany that eventually helped to put his future in focus.

“Growing up, I always wanted to pursue a career where I worked with kids. I even thought about being a pediatrician. Coach Westphal, pulled me aside one afternoon after we had just finished doing some volunteer work at the Mankato YMCA. He told me that he thought I had a special gift for working with kids. He told me I should be teacher. Coach Westphal has always been at the top of my list as being one of the most respectable male figures in my life. So he played a huge part in me making the decision to become a teacher.”

While McMillan fondly remembers his Bethany days, today he’s squarely focused on the work he’s doing in the Richfield School District. When asked what motivates him every day, and why it’s been noticed by peers, his focus naturally turns to the students.

“The most enjoyable thing about being a teacher is the impact that we have on young people or people’s lives in general. Educators are role models, mentors, and sometimes mother/father or big brother/sister figures. We are a part of our students’ development and growth, and their failures and successes. Two of the greatest rewards of being a teacher for me, are when your students come back to see you, or reach out to you to tell you how much you meant to their lives and their growth.”

Commenting about his nomination, McMillan again looks back to his day’s at Bethany.

“Being a student at Bethany helped shape and mold the person I am today. It is a great honor and blessing to be celebrated for something that you are passionate about. God has blessed me a with a gift. To be honored, is a tremendous indication that you have made a difference and an impact on the lives of each of your students.”

Bethany Lutheran College is proud of alumnus Omar McMillan and the impact he’s making with kids every day.