We are thrilled to announce that Heathwood Upper School English teacher Dr. Sally Plowden has been named 2017 South Carolina Independent Schools Association Teacher of the year. Dr. Plowden is the 12th Heathwood teacher to earn SCISA Teacher of the Year honors since 2001.
Upper School Head Dr. George Scouten nominated Dr. Plowden for the award because of her passion and talent for teaching, her commitment to her students, and her significant service to the school as English department chair, literary magazine advisor, and more: “When a group of students wanted to read a supplemental book, Sally met with them weekly at the local Starbucks to do a book club. When a junior boy discovered a love for reading and Sally wanted to challenge him to do more, she re-read Cormac McCarthy to be able to discuss it with him. When the University of South Carolina puts on a play connected to our curriculum, Sally offers to meet students at the performance to encourage them to go.”
Head of School Chris Hinchey said it was difficult to think of anyone more deserving of the award: “Sally Plowden loves her craft and she loves her students, but with all of her gifts and her knowledge, she continues to seek ways to improve her teaching and find innovative ways to connect with students. In the last few years, after in-depth discussions with me about coaching, Sally has looked for parallels between good dance/ballet teachers (her daughter is a ballerina) and good teachers. She has read a number of books about basketball coaches that I suggested in order to better reach students in her classes and more effectively engage them during instruction. She constantly works to improve her already stellar performance. Unassuming and always gracious, Sally Plowden is one an exceptional teacher. While she loves writing and literature, I am convinced that her greatest joy comes from the interaction she has with her students, and with playing a role in their growth and success. I cannot think of anyone who better meets the needs of their students, and whom is more deserving of the SCISA Teacher of the Year.”
Dr. Plowden is the second Heathwood Upper School teacher in a row to win the SCISA award. Math teacher Rip Blackstone was the 2016 SCISA Upper School Teacher of the Year. No other independent school in South Carolina has had more than three teachers win the award in the same time period.
Dr. Plowden has taught English at Heathwood since 2000. She has also taught as a graduate student at the University of South Carolina, where she received the Elliot award for excellence in teaching; Furman University; Wofford College; Columbia College; and the Intensive English program at the University of Miami. Her children’s book, Turtle Tracks, earned the Harry Hampton Woods and Waters Conservation Memorial Journalism Award in 2002. Dr. Plowden also designed and taught a Sunday School class at Eastminster Presbyterian Church on Christianity in Harry Potter. She holds a B.A. from Columbia College and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina.
Dr. Scouten said Dr, Plowden superlatively embodies Heathwood’s commitment to both challenging and supporting students: “From learning how to write clearly and deeply to discovering how literature helps human beings better understand themselves—both individually and collectively—to simply appreciating the beauty of language, students leave Sally’s class changed for the better. Sally is always accessible but also adds an academic air and a gravitas that is winsome for students. A tenured university professor at Wofford, then at Columbia College, Sally gave up a life of academia to work in an independent school—in large part to send her three daughters to Heathwood. What she’ll tell you, however, is that being around young people is transformative for her too—and it certainly is for her students. That combination of love and rigor is why so many of our students leave junior year passionate about literature and knowing how to write well. They feed off of her enthusiasm and rise to her expectations. As many of our students have said, ‘Dr. Plowden can even give you an F but still make you feel OK about it.’ It’s an extraordinary trait.”