George School began a new school year on August 29, 2022. This year we welcome one hundred and sixty-five new students from fourteen states, twenty-five countries, and six continents. As Head of School Sam Houser begins his seventh year at George School, he reflects on what drew him to George School, the launch of the school’s Signature Academic Program, and offers advice to someone who is thinking about a career in education.
What makes you feel most passionate about working in education?
“I was the first in my family to go to college, so I experienced first-hand the power education has to transform a person’s life. A strong high school education prepares a student to excel in college and in life. And a great education also is key to determining the quality of person and how they contribute to their world. What drew me to George School in particular was the power of this community to provide excellent academic preparation in an environment that promotes personal flourishing and growth in ways that few schools offer. I am honored to lead a school that is as concerned about the content of character as it is about the quality of academics.”
What are some innovations currently happening at George School?
“Academics have always been the lifeblood of George School, along with a commitment to service and an appreciation for our global community. This year we are officially launching an ambitiously innovative Signature Academic Program, which will support all three of these priorities with a student-centered approach.
Our faculty, led by [Associate Head of School] Scott Spence and [Director of Studies] Laura Kinnel, have been courageous and visionary risk-takers in crafting this program. The tremendous amount of work the faculty put into researching, developing and testing our distinctive curricular design—much of it completed while simultaneously navigating teaching during the global pandemic—is nothing short of inspiring. Our teachers are excited about the flexibility it allows them to take a truly interdisciplinary, creative, and responsive approach to designing their classes, and our students are excited about the choices they have, the ways in which they will be challenged, and the experiential learning opportunities open to them.
The Signature Academic Program is designed to let students explore their individual interests deeply, to let their lives speak through their studies, and to provide them excellent preparation for college and beyond. The unique schedule is the key to its flexibility. The academic year consists of seven five-week terms, and students take up to four classes each term. Students can still choose to pursue the International Baccalaureate diploma and Advanced Placement coursework. They can choose to double-up in language or advance math, science, or art by taking two levels or two courses in one year. They can choose to explore an area of study entirely new to them in one of these five-week terms. Finally, they can participate in interdisciplinary, experiential, and service-oriented academic pursuits because of the program’s flexible schedule.
The Signature Academic Program is a tremendous, exciting undertaking–one grounded in scientific study about how people best learn. It will preserve the rigor of a George School curriculum, respond to students’ interests and needs, and keep George School at the forefront of high-quality, progressive, college preparatory education in the spirit of the Quaker search for truth.”
What are some projects you are working on as we look toward the future?
“In keeping with Friends’ belief in continuing revelation, we will be focused on supporting students, faculty, and staff through this first year of the Signature Academic Program. At the same time, we will rigorously evaluate the program for the next several years in order to learn from our experiences and advance the program’s effectiveness.
We are also actively building on past successes in athletics to allow all of our student-athletes avenues for growth and success. As our varsity teams become increasingly competitive and attract talented athletes to the school, our athletic program continues to be broad enough to attract students who are first-time athletes as well. No matter the level of competition, under the guidance of Athletic Director Kurt Ruch, all coaches prioritize a holistic, scholar-first approach to their programs. Kurt and his staff are committed to mission-centered growth of George School athletics, and we are excited to support them in that effort.”
How can alumni get involved at George School?
“George School is a given place. Ever since John M. George’s transformational gift almost 130 years ago, our alumni, families, and friends have given of their talent, time, and treasure to make this distinctive education available to successive generations. It is my hope that all of our alumni will share that responsibility and follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before. Find ways to engage with George School that are meaningful to you: mentor or help a student with an internship, volunteer at an event on campus or in your hometown, or simply come back to visit. Consider philanthropic support at a level that is meaningful for you; the school depends on gifts large and small to support student financial aid, teacher salaries, facilities upgrades, and more.
In short, engage with George School! We are eager to hear from you, and to welcome you to campus if you are able. The dedication, involvement, and commitment our alumni demonstrate toward the school have a deep impact on our current and prospective students and their families, and they are critical to keeping the George School community strong.”
What advice would you share with a young person who might be thinking about a career in education?
“Education is more of a calling than a career. Like many vocations that involve a commitment of service to others, the pathway is not always clear or linear. Teaching is by necessity grounded in a pervasive sense of hopefulness and a commitment to the student as a whole person rather than simply to math or history, for example. If you are the sort of person who can live that type of full-life commitment, helping others grow and learn can be immensely rewarding.”