We are excited to introduce Jill McCain as the new Director of Summer Programs and Heathwood Plus. Jill joined the Heathwood community last May as Executive Assistant to Head of School Chris Hinchey, but her extensive background in both education and academic administration made her an even better fit for her new role.
Jill graduated Cum Laude from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay with a double major in Communications and French and a minor in K-12 Education. She was a second-grade French immersion teacher at Midway Elementary School in Lexington, and has taught English in France. She has also served as Assistant to the Head of the Middle School at Hammond School where, in additional to managing daily office operations, she organized parent-teacher conferences, planned grade-level class trips, and managed substitute teachers in the event of faculty absence. A natural teacher, she continually found ways to interact with students, often covering classes and chaperoning events or field trips. In addition, Jill has served as an Adjunct Instructor of French for Corporate and Continuing Education at Midlands Technical College since 2013.
We asked Jill to talk about what drew her to Heathwood and to her new role, and about her plans and vision for Heathwood’s summer and afterschool programs.
This position seems like a perfect fit for someone with your strong background as both a teacher and an academic administrator. What led you to pursue the career path that you have?
I started out teaching because I love children. I especially love the curiosity of younger children and the magic of watching learners discover something new. A few years into my career, I also started being drawn into the programing and curricular side of education. I found that I really enjoy looking at the big picture, planning, and then executing new ideas. At the same time, I still very much want to be involved with kids on a daily basis, and to help cultivate that magic. That’s one thing that excites me about this position.
You’ve worked at several different schools. What attracted you to Heathwood, and what have you enjoyed about being here?
When I first moved to Columbia, I looked at public and private schools in the area. I spent a great deal of time researching all of them, and right from the beginning I was impressed with Heathwood’s vision, mission, and signature outdoor program. (PEAK and SEED are out of this world!) Heathwood’s whole-child approach to education was also very appealing to me.
When I finally got the chance to visit campus, I felt like I had found a hidden treasure or discovered a well-kept secret in Columbia! The campus and grounds themselves are exquisite, but the people here are what make this a school unlike any other. The minute you step on this campus, you feel that it’s a special place. People shy away from using the word “love” when talking about education, but it really is the foundation of everything here—the foundation of learning and of our professional atmosphere. Students always learn best from people who love them. Heathwood faculty and staff have a common goal, and we all enjoy working together—it’s a true team effort. Caring for a student’s social and spiritual sides as much as their intellect is crucial, and it makes our work more meaningful and exciting. And we all work together, so everything feels like a true team effort.
What excites you most about your new position?
I’m especially excited about the chance to be creative, to design programming that engages and inspires students, and to be of service to our families all at the same time. On a more day-to-day level, I’ve always enjoyed rolling up my sleeves and getting things done. And I’m just as happy sitting on the floor playing with children as I am thinking about the big picture.
How do you see afterschool and summer programs fitting into the overall Heathwood experience?
They are very much part of the school experience for many of our students. Learning does not just take place during the school day, and it doesn’t just come in the form of traditional instruction. It can also come through play, or through afterschool activities, or through just having time to explore personal interests.
We are so blessed at Heathwood to have the campus and resources that we do. Heathwood Plus programs allow current students to experience Heathwood on a deeper level and give others the opportunity to get a taste of what Heathwood is all about. I want these programs to rank among Heathwood’s signature programs, and to really showcase our campus and our community.
It’s also important that these programs meet the needs of our working families. So I’m always interested in knowing what those needs are and how we can best serve them.
What are your plans and vision for the future of Heathwood Plus?
I want everyone—parents and kids alike—to be excited about what we’re doing, and to feel that we’re meeting the needs of parents and creating meaningful experiences for the children we serve. So I’m going to be very focused on finding more ways to engage kids and keep them excited about learning. I also think it’s important to recognize and promote play as a high form of learning. I want our programs to always include time for kids to be kids.
I look forward to even further diversifying and increasing our summer offerings. We’re coming off of a very successful year for our summer programs, and that suggests there’s room to expand!
What do you want parents to know about you?
First and foremost, that I will strive to build a program that brings out the best in our students, teachers, and school. I value the mission of Heathwood that places service to others above self-interest, and I truly want to meet the needs of everyone who takes part in this program. I want parents to feel free to contact me at any time with feedback, ideas, questions, or concerns. I am very much looking forward to getting to know all of our students and families, and my door is always open!