Book Review

Don't sell Milton short


Maybe Milton Should Go Work In The Woods

It's a lesson in believing in your children, a lesson in perseverance.

And, appropriately, it's taught by a teacher.

Maybe Milton Should go Work in the Woods is former Sunnyside educator and principal Milton Snyder's memoir.

The story unfolds on a farm in Idaho, where Snyder grew up and was seemingly headed for a career in logging, like his father before him.

Snyder's life changed forever when he was a high school freshman. That's when a well-meaning teacher shared with Snyder's mother that he was struggling in algebra. "Maybe Milton should go to work in the woods," was the teacher's advice.

The remark galvanized Snyder's mother, who insisted he attend college.

Snyder, as it turns out, made the most of the opportunity and went on to get his PhD in an education career that spanned more than four decades.

"It was almost like being called to the ministry, and I had become truly committed to the field of education with no interest in moving to another career," he wrote of his commitment to pursuing a career as a school superintendent. "I realized that the path to future opportunities was through additional education. Probably my mother had ingrained that idea in me during the early years."

Snyder started his post graduate work during the summers while working in the Sunnyside School District.

Sunnyside offered him his first teaching job and in the fall of 1954 Snyder began as a fourth and fifth grade teacher at Washington School.

"My contract for this first job was $3,300, a going salary for a beginning teacher in 1953," Snyder wrote.

While in Sunnyside, Snyder also coached eighth and ninth grade football teams at the junior high level. He later taught ninth graders in Sunnyside at Kamiakin Junior High.

Snyder wrote that his first and last time to administer corporal punishment came when he was teaching middle schoolers and one of them swore at him. Though permissible at the time, Snyder took his prinicpal's advice to find other ways of disciplining students.

In 1956, Snyder was named principal at Washington School.

The promotion and accompanying salary increase allowed him and his family to buy their first home, a $10,500 ranch-style house at 313 Madison Avenue in Sunnyside.

Snyder worked in the Sunnyside School District for seven years, 1953 to 1960.

After leaving Sunnyside, Snyder went on to a long career as a school superintendent. He served in that capacity in districts ranging from Anacortes to Oakland, Calif.

Though it represented less than a quarter of his total education career, Snyder still has fond memories of Sunnyside.

"The seven years we lived in Sunnyside were wonderful years in our lives, particularly because our sons were all born there," he wrote.

Among the friends Snyder counted during his time in Sunnyside were Bill and Marietta Hake, Allen and Barbara Bergstrom, Ken and Evie Davis, Bob and Micky Young, Clyde and Eve Henry, as well as Dick and Ril Angus.

At nearly 350 pages, Snyder's memoir goes into great detail marking his rise into the national top 100 school district superintendents.

His career was capped by being named the deputy executive director for the 18,000 member American Association of School Administrators.

Along the way Snyder's memoir delves into everything from his concepts of team management to breaking the race barrier with his hirings in a Virginia school district.

In addition he met and spoke with presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Carter during his administrative career.

The book has several family photos and news clippings from Snyder's career.

For those seeking a career in education, especially as a principal or superintendent, Maybe Milton Should Go Work in the Woods would be recommended reading.

He takes off the kid gloves and lays out how he handled - and mishandled - situations during his career in education.

For those with an interest in history, or know Snyder - now an educational consultant - the $45 price tag for the book may also be worthwhile.

To order the book, e-mail

Whether or a not a person finds the book valuable, one thing is for certain, thousands - perhaps millions - of children in this country are better off because Milton did not go work in the woods.


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