Upper School Head George Scouten has spent some 16 years in Heathwood's Upper School, serving as an English teacher, Department Chair, Dean of Students, Director of International Studies, and Academic Dean before being named Upper School Head in 2015. His teaching career has been distinguished, marked by prestigious awards such as a Fulbright Award and a National Endowment for the Humanities teacher grant and by recognition as SCISA Upper School Teacher of the Year. So students and parents who are familiar with his scholarly side might be surprised to know that he's also a talented lacrosse player who continues to compete at the master's level and who coaches Heathwood's Middle School lacrosse team.
Originally from Baltimore, MD, Dr. Scouten holds a BA from Salisbury, an MA from Bowling Green, and a Ph.D. in English and Rhetoric from the University of South Carolina. He also recently completed a National Association of Independent Schools Aspiring Heads Fellowship.
Here, he talks about why his current role at Heathwood is so rewarding, what he values about the culture of Heathwood's Upper School, what he loves about coaching lacrosse, and more.
What attracted you to teaching?
My undergraduate experience at Salisbury, a small public liberal arts university in Maryland. I saw my professors there interacting with words and ideas and other people, and I thought I’d enjoy doing that as well.
What drew you to academic administration? What do you find most rewarding about it?
First and foremost, I like to learn and I like to be challenged, and the move to administration allowed me to continue to grow in new areas. Secondly, I like thinking on a holistic level, and my administrative role allows me to be involved in all aspects of running a school—particularly setting a vision and a direction. As the Upper School Head, I play a role in shaping the experience of every student, parent and employee in my division. That being said, I also love first-hand interaction with young people, and Heathwood is a small enough school that I can still spend a part of my days with kids—and those moments are often the highlights of my day.
What do you see as the strengths of Heathwood’s Upper School?
There are so many, that it’s hard to enumerate them all. As I share with prospective parents, Heathwood is a small school, where every child is known and cared for—you can’t be “invisible” at Heathwood, and there’s a high level of student engagement as a result. Academically, it’s the best school in Columbia—and the school with the most honored faculty in the state. It’s a school where students achieve at very high levels, but where they also enjoy being students—it’s not a pressure cooker. It’s a school with a soul, where we want students not only to be successful but also purposeful and compassionate. And finally, it’s a place that invites students to discover—and explore—their passions.
You also coach Middle School Lacrosse … what’s your own lacrosse background, and what’s it been like introducing the sport to students here, where most people have not grown up with it?
In Baltimore, where I grew up, no sport is more important than lacrosse, and I started playing when I was six. I don’t know that I was naturally gifted, but I loved the sport so much and put in so many hours that I eventually became very good. I was a starter on the 1989 Maryland State Championship Team and also got to travel to international play in Vancouver, Canada as part of the 1988 USA 17 and Under Team. I stopped playing at Salisbury, but I picked up the sport again at Bowling Green (while I was working on my master’s degree), and was selected as the team's defensive player of the year in 1996. In South Carolina, I was a coach in the first-ever game between two high schools (Heathwood Hall and Hilton Head H.S.). I’ve also been recognized as South Carolina Lacrosse’s “Man of the Year” and “Official of the Year” and was inducted into the South Carolina Lacrosse Hall of Fame. I still play competitive men’s lacrosse, participating in several tournaments each year.
I find great joy in sharing a game I love with the middle schoolers at Heathwood. They have so much enthusiasm for the sport, and it keeps me feeling young in the process.
How, in your experience, does participation in athletics enhance students’ overall educational experience?
For me, extracurricular activities and academics go hand in hand. Both are opportunities for learning and growth, and there is crossover between the two. Beyond that, extracurriculars teach time management, cooperation, and intrinsic motivation. Athletics have the added benefit of physical activity—better bodily health, better sleep, etc.—all of which also support school.
What might your students be surprised to learn about you?
I don’t think my students would be surprised by this, but I loved school as a kid and still love to learn today. I am a bird watcher, a hiker, a gardener, an avid player of strategy games. I love learning about other countries and cultures, the origins of words and phrases—the list goes on and on. In fact, one of the aspects of my job that is particularly pleasurable is the classroom observations I do of teachers. Even as I am busy recording my feedback for them, I’m trying to learn and recall past lessons—to get the equations right or to translate the passage before the teacher goes over it in class.