On May 26, 2017, Heathwood Hall held its 40th Commencement ceremony at Trinity Cathedral and welcomed the Class of 2017 to the ranks of our alumni.
The members of the Class of 2017 will long be remembered at Heathwood for their accomplishments in the classroom, on our playing fields, in the fine arts, and more. As they move on to colleges in 12 states and the District of Columbia, we wish them all the best and ask them please to stay in touch!
More pictures from graduation are available at https://www.heathwood.org/graduation2017
Like mother, like son … the Draffins are making a family tradition out of coming through for Heathwood in the clutch.
Twenty-five years ago, as a sophomore on the Heathwood Girls Varsity Basketball team, Katherine Juk Draffin (’94) got fouled shooting a 3-pointer against Ashley Hall. The game was almost over and the Highlanders were down by three, so the three free throws Katherine was awarded were obviously going to be decisive: make all three and the game would likely go to overtime; miss just one and Heathwood would lose. No pressure, right?
Katherine stepped up to the line and made the first shot … and then the second … and then—as every spectator held their breath—the third. The game was tied, and in the few seconds remaining, Ashley Hall failed to convert. Thanks to Katherine, the game went to overtime.
Flash forward to January 19, 2017, and the Heathwood Middle School Boys Basketball team is down by two points to a much bigger Camden Military squad. With under a minute to play and the clock winding down fast, point guard Walker Draffin (’22) launches a three-point shot, and is fouled in the process. Once again, no pressure, right? Make two shots and you can force overtime, make three and you’ll probably win the game. Anything less, and the Highlanders will almost certainly lose.
Walker stepped to the line and squared up to shoot. In the stands, his father Stephen (’90) said, almost in a whisper, “Oh, he practiced this a lot this weekend.” As calmly as if he were still taking those routine practice shots, Walker released his first free throw—and it sailed right through the net. He took the second, and once again, it hit nothing but net. In the stands, all the Heathwood fans held their breath … and Walker shot his third … and it too swished right in. With just seconds left, Camden Military hustled up court but couldn’t convert—and after being down by almost double digits at the half, Heathwood went on to win the game.
Parents in attendance who heard Stephen Draffin mention that Walker had recently put a lot of time in at the free throw line might have been tempted to point out to their sons that the Highlanders won the game thanks to Walker’s work ethic, and specifically his willingness to work hard in practice to improve his game. But Katherine Draffin says learning what it takes to come through in the clutch was just one of many takeaways from her own Heathwood basketball career: “Basketball was by far my favorite sport that I played at Heathwood,” she recalls. “It taught me a lot, on and off the court.”
2016 brought the Highlander Nation some terrific moments!
In no particular order, we’ve highlighted 10 of the top stories in the Heathwood Hall calendar year – ENJOY & GO HALL!
HIGHLANDERS WIN STATE
The Boys Cross Country team capped off an incredible 2016 season by winning their final four races, including the SCISA AAA State Championship! Despite losing their top runner from 2015 and having lost senior captain Harrison Boorda to an injury, Coach Cindy Scannella’s team combined youth with experience to win the title on the Heathwood home course, behind the efforts of seniors Matt Quan and Aidan Powers, junior Nick Basile, and middle schoolers Joseph French and Hugh Willcox.
B-TEAM FOOTBALL, LATTIMORE DELIVER
Under the direction of first-year head coach Marcus Lattimore, the Highlander MS Football team entered the 2016 season having not won a game since 2013. By game three, the Highlanders had ended that streak, and by the end of the season, the Highlanders had won their final four games and their first Region I Championship! A huge Heathwood contingent packed out Hammond’s Edens Stadium and were treated to two second-half scores and a 12-0 win!
GROWTH IN THE COLLEGIATE HIGHLANDER FRATERNITY
The number of Heathwood alums taking their talents to the next level grew in 2016, as four Highlander graduates headed off to begin their collegiate careers, and one senior signed to pursue a collegiate career. Brandon Hill signed on National Signing Day with Duke University, while Justin Taylor (Furman), Ben Wilson (Mississippi State), and Woodson Bagnal (Hampden-Sydney) all committed to their respective schools. In November, senior Josh Caldwell signed with the United States Military Academy at West Point (Army) for collegiate basketball.
DEBUT OF THE TOURVILLE CENTER
Thanks to the generosity of Highlander donors, Heathwood renovated and updated a brand new Strength & Conditioning facility in the Lower Gym facility. The facility features new weight equipment from Sorinex, a rehab and cardio room overlooking Highlander Stadium, updates to the Athletic Training room, and new athletic offices and storage rooms. The top-of-the-line facility continues to keep Heathwood Hall at the forefront of facilities in SCISA and across the state.
THE YEAR OF NASIR
Maryah Nasir entered 2016 coming off the 2015 SCISA Cross Country State title, and dominated the calendar year from start to finish. She claimed three individual state titles at the SCISA State Track Meet, claimed two gold medals during the summer in the South Carolina Junior Olympics, and then put together one of the great seasons in Highlander Cross Country history, winning eight events including the Region I title, en route to being named the Midlands Runner of the Year by The State Newspaper.
With so many of the Highlander teams succeeding in 2016, honors were awarded to several members of the Highlander coaching staff. Boys Soccer’s Andrew Richardson earned Region I Co-Coach of the Year honors, and was named the State Private/Parochial School Coach of the Year by the NSCAA after leading the Highlanders to the state championship match. In her first year as HH’s Volleyball coach, Ashley Jordan earned Region Coach of the Year honors and coached in the SCISA North-South game after leading the Highlanders to a runner-up finish in region play and a top seed in the state tournament. After leading the Boys Cross Country team to the first Highlander state championship since 2014, Cindy Scannella was named the State Cross Country Coach of the Year.
While so many of our teams enjoyed great success, several excelled in competition and brought home hardware back to South Beltline! The Wrestling team closed out the 2015-16 season with State Championship appearance, while the Girls Track team and Boys Soccer team both earned State Runner-Up finishes in the spring. This fall, the Girls Swim team had a great showing at the Augusta Aquatics Center, narrowly finishing behind Ashley Hall to finish as the runner-up for the second time in three years.
CALDWELL JOINS 1,000-POINT CLUB
Senior Boys Basketball player Josh Caldwell became the third member of the Highlander Boys Basketball program to join the 1,000 point club with his first basket at Porter-Gaud on December 2nd. The reigning Region 1 Co-Player of the Year, helped lead the Highlanders to the SCISA State Semifinals in 2015-16, and is looking to take the team even farther this season before heading to West Point.
DIG PINK GAME PROVES HUGE SUCCESS
The Highlander Volleyball program engineered one of the great fundraising events of the year with their first annual Dig Pink game. Honored during the event included our own golf coach Lynn Humphrey, who is in remission after battling Breast Cancer. The event took place the night of the Hammond match, bringing in a terrific crowd donning pink, and featured bake sales, auctions, and a serving contest–to go along with a 3-0 sweep of the Skyhawks!
THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT
The Highlander Athletic Department heads into 2017 with great momentum! Our thanks to the entire Heathwood community for their continued support! There’s something great happening over on South Beltline!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
The 13th Annual Heathwood Hall MS TURKEY TROT was another amazing event. This year’s theme was “Keep Calm and GIVE THANKS."
The MS TURKEY TROT took place on the crisp morning of Tuesday, November 22, and it was the culmination of a series of events that provided our students in grades 5-8 with an opportunity to participate in a true service learning project that connects to our school mission and stewardship to others. The MS TURKEY TROT took into account the developmental needs of all middle school students while instilling in them the desire to lead, serve, and give.
Over the course of the first semester, each grade in the Middle School participated in our annual Harvest Hope Food Drive that collected nearly 3,800 pounds of food. Students in each grade took a field trip to Harvest Hope Food Bank. The students saw firsthand how Harvest Hope works. The students toured the entire facility, met volunteers, witnessed the process of collecting, sorting, storing, and distributing of food. These field trips helped our students better understand the hunger issues facing many fellow citizens of South Carolina and what Harvest Hope Food Bank is doing to help combat hunger in our state.
The 13th Annual Heathwood Hall MS TURKEY TROT went very well. The day was simply beautiful. We first met in the Dining Commons for two wonderful research presentations on hunger and homelessness crafted by the MS Leadership Council. While on the track, students, faculty, staff, and parents walked, ran, skipped, and danced. As the trotters were trotting, a DJ played high-energy music that amplified the enthusiasm of the TURKEY TROT. The community-building was joyous as everyone, including Cool Can Sam, enjoyed the Heathwood spirit of giving. After lunch, which was donated by Breakers at Five Points, students enjoyed Fall Fun Day. Students rotated through four different 25-minute activities: stickball, capture the flag, kickball, and dodgeball.
We surpassed our goal of $13,000 for Harvest Hope Food Bank…WHOO! The MS was able to raise $14,000 for Harvest Hope. This tremendous donation translates into 70,000 meals for Harvest Hope at a time of great need in the community. The TURKEY TROT is an ideal service learning opportunity, because it allows students to be involved, to get enthusiastic, and to be social in a safe environment while being productive. The students love the chance to work at a common goal with friends and enjoy the positive competition. Therefore, over the last thirteen years, the Heathwood MS TURKEY TROT has generated a grand total of over $145,000 to Harvest Hope Food Bank. Our MS Leadership Council went downtown to present this year’s check to Harvest Hope Food Bank during the WACH57 Share Your Holiday Event, Thursday, December 1.
Thank you to everyone who helped out in support of this service learning experience for our students and our division. Thank you to everyone who donated dollars and gathered money for those in need in Columbia and to support Harvest Hope Food Bank. Kudos to Chef Jim McMahon and FLIK for donating snacks and fruit for the 13th Annual MS TURKEY TROT. Special thanks to Mrs. Bonnie Bruner for her calculating skills! Thanks to our MS HPA volunteers and faculty members who gave students the Harvest Hope green stickers. Special thanks to our corporate sponsors: Breakers at Five Points (Mr. Bradley Morgan); Groucho’s of West Columbia (the Rosenbaum family); Columbia Eye Clinic (the Barker family); Gene Morris Produce Company (the Russell Morris family); Cool Care Heating & Air (the Wardlaw family); and the Sandhills Veterinary Clinic (the Thomas family). Many thanks to the Heathwood Maintenance staff for their assistance, and thank you to the Heathwood PE staff for running the Fall Fun Day games.
Reindeer, elves, snowmen, and more will descend on the Heathwood Hall campus on Saturday, December 3 for the 2016 edition of the Deck the Hall 5K and 2K trail race, Kids’ Reindeer Games and 400-meter fun run.
In addition to being one of Columbia’s only 5K trail races, Deck the Hall is one of the most festive races of the year, with holiday-themed costumes encouraged, and fun activities planned for participants of all ages. Prizes are awarded not only for top race finishers in each age division but also for the best adult, youth, and children’s costumes.
The good times are all in support of two good causes: The Winston’s Wish Foundation, which is dedicated to increasing knowledge and understanding of children with autism, and Rural Mission, which works to strengthen fragile Sea Island houses on the South Carolina coast.
Community involvement and civic responsibility are important parts of the educational experience at Heathwood Hall,” said race organizer Willis Ware, Heathwood’s Director of Community Relations. “The Deck the Hall event is just one way that we, with the support of the greater community, can help enrich the lives of those supported by Winston’s Wish and the Rural Mission. The Deck the Hall races are trail races that are family friendly and can be enjoyed by both competitive runners and those who enjoy a fun, casual holiday atmosphere.”
We invite all members of the Midlands community to join us at this year’s race!
When: December 3, 2016
Where: Heathwood Hall, 3000 S. Beltline Blvd., Columbia, SC 29201
What: 5K trail run (6 yrs. and up): 8:30 a.m. $30
2K trail run (7-14 yrs.): 9:30 a.m. $25
Team Race—5K and 2K (3 members, any age or sex): $65 per 3-person team/$95 for family of 4
Kids’ Reindeer Games and Fun Run: (up to 4th grade): 9:00 a.m. $20
Deadline for guaranteed T-shirt Nov. 28th . Day of registration begins 6:45am. Packets available for pick up at Strictly Running on Friday, December 2nd
Race Day Registration $35 or $25 for youth races
Awards: 5k for the top overall winners (male and female) and overall masters male and female. (Overall winners are not eligible for age group awards.) 5K Age Group categories male and female– 6-9; 10-14; 15-19; 20-24; 25-29; 30-34; 35-39; 40-44; 45-49; 50-54; 55-59; 60-64; 65 & over...
2K Male and Female overall Winner; Age groups male and female 7-10; 11-14
Heathwood Hall announces the hiring of Marcus Lattimore as the Head Football Coach, upon the resignation of outgoing coach Steve Victory. Victory, 3-15 in his two seasons at the helm, will be returning to his home state of Louisiana to tend to family matters. Lattimore, a former South Carolina All-American and San Francisco 49ers draft pick, served as Heathwood’s Varsity Running Backs coach and Head B-Team Coach in 2016. He helped coach junior running back Brandon McCullough to 1st Team SCISA All-State honors, and the B-Team to the SCISA Region 1-AAA Championship, after they had gone winless in 2014 and 2015.
In addition to his duties as the Head Football Coach, Lattimore will serve as Heathwood Hall’s School Advancement Associate. In this role, he will work with the athletic administration, admissions office, school development office, and Head of School Chris Hinchey. He will begin both roles on January 16, 2017.
“Marcus has articulated a vision of excellence for the entire football program (Varsity, JV and B-Team), and I am confident that, through his exceptional work ethic, genuine concern for player development, advanced understanding of the game, and commitment to character and sportsmanship, he will build a very competitive team and outstanding program," said Heathwood Head of School Chris Hincey. "He is excited about the challenge ahead and he is the right man for the job.”
Heathwood Athletic Director Jeff Whalen said, “We are extremely pleased that Marcus has accepted our offer to become our head football coach and a member of our staff at Heathwood. Marcus is very knowledgeable in football but brings to us a more important characteristic in that he understands the importance of developing character and discipline. I would also like thank and wish Steve Victory future success as he and his wife move back to New Orleans.”
“Heathwood Hall is a special community that I am thrilled to be a part of," said Coach Lattimore. "The kindhearted people make this place feel like home. The genuine care for our students is evident, and it all starts with great leadership from our Head of School, Chris Hinchey. The sport of football has provided me with a platform to motivate and inspire thousands of kids over the years, and this will give me an opportunity on a daily basis to continue to make an impact on the lives of our young men. Our coaching staff will immediately began to create a uniform system, developing the program from top to bottom, with the foundation built on an emphasis of accountability. Our young men will know they represent something bigger than themselves. Our players will work with pride to have people respect the name on the back of their jersey and more importantly, the name on the front.”
Coach Steve Victory said, “My wife and I are expecting our first child in February and it is our desire to be closer to our family in Louisiana. The Heathwood community has been very supportive of me and I am grateful for the opportunity to work with such great people. I wish them nothing but the best in the future.”
A native of Duncan, SC, Marcus Lattimore graduated from Byrnes High School in 2010. As a senior, he earned USA Today’s high school All-American honors and was named South Carolina’s “Mr. Football.” Marcus then signed with the University of South Carolina and was a three year letterman for the Gamecocks and led the team to their first SEC championship game in 2010. Marcus holds the South Carolina all-time record with 41 career touchdowns in only 23 games. In 2013 Marcus was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth round of the NFL draft. After two seasons, Marcus retired from the 49ers and returned to South Carolina to finish his degree in Public Health. He is committed to growing the image of The Marcus Lattimore Foundation, whose mission is to provide assistance to high school athletes who may not have sufficient insurance to obtain quality rehabilitation from sports-related injuries.
With the holidays approaching, now is the perfect time to drop by the Plaid Peddler to shop for gifts for every Highlander on your list. From fun stocking stuffers to warm winter gear to fleece blankets, backpacks, duffels and more, we've got you covered.
The Plaid Peddler is located next to the band room, in the heart of campus, and is open Monday-Friday, 8:15-4. Stop by, or place your order by phone at 231-7740.
Here's a sampling of some of our newer items and some long-time favorites:
Model - MS student Carter Livingston
Ladies Champion Society 1/4 Zip - $40.
Stand collar, elbow patches and high-low, curved bottom hem.
Model: Skylar Dupuis
Rabbit Skins Full Zip hoodie - $30
Sizes: 2T, 4Y, 5/6
Colors: Navy, Pink, and Grey
Model: John Javis - 8th Grade
Men's Under Armour 1/4 Zip - $50
S, M, L, XL, XXL
Models: Justin Lange – 10th grade & Adam Bennett – 9th grade
Men’s Under Armour Hoodie Fleece Sweat shirts, $65 and $50
Under Armour Ball caps, navy, green, white, graphite $24
Each week, the South Carolina Independent School Athletic Association (SCISA) surveys the entire state of South Carolina and selects three or four statewide Student Athletes of the Week. Once a month SCISA also selects a Sportsperson of the Month. In September, Heathwood was dominant in both categories. Highlanders Flinn Christian (volleyball), Madison Branum (golf), and Maryah Nasir (cross country) were honored as Athletes of the Week on three subsequent weeks, and Cross Country runner Harrison Boorda was named Sportsman of the Month. Days later, volleyball player Jaylen Davis learned that she had been selected as WLTX Player of the Week.
We’re proud that so many Highlanders have recently been singled out for their contributions to their sports and want to celebrate these five standouts and all of our other Heathwood fall athletes!
Flinn is a Captain for our Varsity Volleyball team. She consistently leads by example, but is also a vocal leader expressing praise as well as encouragement and expectations to her teammates. She acts as a communication buffer between her teammates and the coaching staff and Coach Jordan trusts her to be a “coach on the court” when needed. She is not only supportive to her teammates, but she also holds them accountable. Flinn is the true definition of a team captain and leader.
Her devotion to the sport and the hard work it takes to be successful on the court, as well as to her teammates, is inspiring and worthy of commendation. As Coach Jordan puts it, “Flinn is a coach’s dream player and an excellent student of the game. She often brings insightful questions to me after practice and/or a game and she strives to understand and apply the material, not only on the court, but in daily life. Flinn is a frequent contributor and key factor for our success on the court. She has won several awards for Volleyball and is on the right track to play at the collegiate level and also receive a volleyball scholarship when she applies to college next year.”
Flinn plays Outside Hitter and fills a huge role for the team. She is the team’s primary offensive threat and wins a majority of their points. She is also a top defensive player and has been the team’s second leader in defensive plays. SCISAhonored her for having 12 kills, 10 aces, 17 digs and 9 serve receptions in a single match.
The recent awards for senior Jaylen Davis come as no surprise to the Highlander Faithful, who have been treated to watching her exploits since she began competing for the Navy Blue and Green. Davis, who competes for both the Highlander Volleyball and Track & Field teams, has earned All-Region honors in both sports, while serving as one of the tri-captains for the Highlander Volleyball team this fall.
Behind her leadership, the Highlanders have enjoyed one of the best seasons in recent history, and will enter the playoffs with an opportunity to make a deep run. For the first time in years, the Highlander Volleyball team earned a season sweep over archrival Hammond, and has an opportunity to finish the season with a top-2 finish in region play.
In addition to her athletic excellence, Jaylen has served key roles in many other on-campus organizations and community service efforts, as well as being a member of the National Honor Society. Her efforts have earned the respect of her peers, her coaches, the Heathwood community, and the local community, as well, as she has earned Player of the Week honors from SCISA and WLTX News 19, in addition to being voted as the Highlander Homecoming Queen.
A Google search of Heathwood’s Maryah Nasir quickly informs any curious person of the remarkable athletic career the junior has quickly put together. Already one of the most decorated SCISA athletes ever, Nasir owns state titles and records in nearly every distance event, ranging from the SCISA Individual Cross Country title, to the 1600M & 3200M state records. Nasir enters nearly every event across the state as a favorite, and has matched those expectations more times than not. Since her arrival a year ago, Nasir has won over 50% of the races she has competed in, and ranks as one of the top runners (public or private) in the entire state.
What Google may not show however, is the balance she shows with her high performance level away from the track or trail. A top student, Nasir can often be found supporting other Highlander teams, providing a helping hand in community service projects, and even singing the National Anthem at Highlander Football games!
Leadership is defined as the action of leading a group of people or an organization. For a more tangible example however, Heathwood needs to look no further than senior Harrison Boorda. A double-digit time letter-winner, Boorda will graduate this spring with an impressive athletic resume to his name. He has participated with multiple Highlander teams and been an integral part of several championship-level Highlander teams. But lost in the glitz and glamour of his athletic exploits is an even greater young man whose character will leave a lasting impact on the Heathwood community.
In a recent cross country race, the senior team captain found himself battling fatigue, as well as chronic calf pain, in the midst of a race, when even more adversity presented itself to him. An opposing runner from First Baptist suffered an injury and found himself unable to continue the race.
“When I talk to our team about our run, I talk about being a good sportsman. Not about the time, but about running in a way that makes yourself proud with the way you perform. So when the guy went down, it really wasn’t a hard decision. If I’m preaching that, I might as well do it myself.”
Boorda stopped his own race, and focused his efforts on the FBS runner. From providing words of encouragement, to physically carrying the young man, even continuing to walk with the athlete when he felt compelled to try to continue, Harrison provided an example of sportsmanship that inspired not only his other competitors, and coaches from other schools, but the young athletes he calls teammates. Heathwood’s team, ranked as high as #1 in the state, boasts one of the youngest rosters in SCISA. But they surely wouldn’t enjoy the same success were it not for their senior leader, even when injuries keep him from competing.
“We’ve got a couple of high schoolers, but a large deal of middle schoolers. I’ve had to take up more of an assistant coach’s role since my calves have kept me from competing… really just looking after them and trying to instill the same principles in them that I was taught.”
For those who have never competed in the sport, golf can be an incredibly intimidating game. Unlike most team sports, golf teammates do not get the opportunity to share in their competition. Each golfer often has to celebrate individual successes alone, and respond to personal adversity in the same fashion. For Heathwood junior Madison Branum, the celebrations have greatly outweighed the difficulties.
The defending SCISA State Co-Medalist entered the season with high expectations, and Madison has risen to the challenge. Boasting the lowest scoring average in SCISA, Branum has been a medalist in each match she has participated in over the last two seasons, typically near or below par. This fall, she was invited to participate in the prestigious Palmetto Classic, the top event for public and private school golfers from across the state. Branum played some of her top golf to date, earning a top-10 finish against some of the most accomplished team and players from South Carolina.
Her resume, as you might imagine, has generated some top Division 1 collegiate interest, ranging from her ranking on the Hurricane Golf Tour (as high as #3 nationally), 3.1 USGA Handicap, stellar GPA, or 3-time All-Region and All-State seasons. Well-rounded, Branum shares her time as a volunteer, both on and off-campus, and has been a leader in both the girls and boys golf program.
“It was so amazing to see pictures of this guy in space and then have him be right there in front of you.”
That was Sophomore Spears Goodlett’s reaction when he attended the Annual Aerospace Dinner at the 2016 South Carolina Aerospace Conference & Expo and heard from guest of honor Winston Scott, a former NASA astronaut.
Spears was one of six Heathwood students who, along with Upper School science teachers Jim Morris and Tim McKnight, were invited to attend the Aerospace Dinner, which was the keynote event at the Aerospace Conference hosted byUSC’s McNAIR Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research on August 24-25.
The invitation came about through Heathwood’s Columbia Connections program, which extends our learning environment beyond the classroom by connecting students with leaders in the local academic, cultural, scientific, non-profit, and business communities and creating opportunities for students to work with these community members and gain a more in-depth understanding of how the skills and knowledge they acquire in the classroom translate into real-world action.
Students interested in attending the dinner were invited to submit a short essay explaining why they would like to be included in Heathwood’s delegation. The six students who were selected were Senior Matt Watford, Junior Athreya Murali, Sophomores Julia Lauterbach, Spears Goodlett, and Ben Mathews, and Freshman Clay Mitchell.
“I have always been fascinated by space flight and the courage it takes for astronauts to go into space,” Julia said in her application essay. “Learning more about how living on earth compares to living in space for a total of 21 days would be a wonderful experience.”
“The ability to be with people from the fields of academia and aerospace, as well as members of the government, is an opportunity I don’t think anyone could pass up,” Ben said. “I am especially interested in this event because aerospace-related topics aren’t something that you can find in most science camps, especially at the detail that would be present in a conference of this caliber.”
At the dinner, Mr. McKnight said, “We were treated like royalty by the organizers and Captain Scott himself. During the question and answer time it was evident that Captain Scott really wanted to make the students in attendance be the guests of honor. A microphone was passed around and several of our students were able to ask questions of Astronaut Scott. After the Q & A session we were escorted through a back entrance into the hospitality room where the student attendees were treated to being in the front of the line to visit face-to-face with Captain Scott.”
That, said Spears, was what made the dinner particularly memorable. “I thought the dinner was just out of this world—no pun intended,” he said. “Above all, my favorite part was getting my picture taken with Captain Scott and shaking hands with him and realizing that the hand I shook had been to space. I am so grateful for the opportunity to attend this event.”
Suzanne Nagy, ’90, knows better than most what it’s like to be a Middle Schooler here at Heathwood—she used to be one. She has, in fact, spent most of her life on the Heathwood campus.
After attending Heathwood from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, Suzanne went to Furman and then returned to Heathwood in 1994 as an English teacher. Although she left in 1999 to work for Governor Jim Hodges, and then moved with her husband Greg to Charlotte and Little Rock, she returned to Heathwood in 2008 to serve as Assistant Head of the Middle School and then as a 5th grade English teacher. She has also worked in the Heathwood Admission Office and coached basketball and tennis for the Highlanders. Along the way, she earned M.Ed. degrees from the University of South Carolina and the University of Arkansas. In July, when previous Middle School Head Donnie Bain became Director of Heathwood’s Columbia Connections program, Suzanne took his place.
Here she talks about what she loves about working with Middle School students, what’s kept her at Heathwood for so long, and which Heathwood teachers have inspired her.
What attracted you to a career teaching middle school?
Middle school is my favorite age to teach. I love students this age because they’re in that middle ground of both being young and impressionable but also growing into who they will become. So as teachers, we can have a real impact on students this age.
What appealed to you about moving from teaching to being Middle School Head?
I felt ready to push myself and take on a challenge, and it felt like this particular challenge might be wonderful. My previous experience as Assistant Middle School Head also meant I knew much of what to expect.
What do you miss most so far about being in the classroom?
I do miss being around the kids all day and really getting to know them deeply as individuals. There’s such a unique relationship you develop with kids in the classroom—you get to know so much about their personalities, their interests, their sense of humor.
That’s compensated for, though, by the fact that I’m getting to think about the big picture, to explore new ideas and new programs. I suppose that where I have a true administrator’s brain is that I love the details of taking a big idea and drilling it down to all the details that make it happen.
So what are some big ideas you’re thinking about?
I’m really interested in finding ways to engage students in service that’s deeply meaningful to them. One thing I’ve been thinking about is service as hands-on learning that connects to the curriculum in ways that are valuable for our students.
For example, we could have cross-divisional experiences where students explore issues like aging, disability, or leadership and do service around those issues. Broadly, I want to think about ways for students to build skills by doing different tasks.
Community service is a particularly valuable approach in middle school, because so much of the middle-grade experience is about developing empathy and figuring out your place in the community. And speaking from personal experience, I know that learning beyond the classroom can be especially impactful. My own lifelong passion for civil rights was sparked by hearing civil rights pioneer John Lewis speak when I was on a Heathwood Winterim trip.
Speaking of your own experiences as a Heathwood student, who are some of the Heathwood teachers who inspired you?
I learned to write from Mr. Gasque. Long before then, in Early Childhood, Mrs. Page Steinert and Mrs. Jean Dukes are also legendary Heathwood teachers who had a big impact on me. And Sue Swick was my mentor teacher when I got out of Furman.
What has inspired you to follow in those teachers’ footsteps by spending so much of your career at Heathwood?
Heathwood is a place that has always encouraged me to ask questions and has made me value being curious and learning just to learn. It gave me so many opportunities, not just as a student but as an athlete, and in the arts—there was an expectation that I would just keep trying things and doing things, and all those experiences really shaped who I am and how I see the world. So I want to be part of passing that kind of educational experience on to new generations of students. I also value that as a member of the Heathwood faculty, I continue to experience that level of encouragement and support. When my name was announced for this job, I received so many wonderful emails of support.
Middle school can be a challenging time for students and parents alike. This summer you invited our Middle School teachers and parents to read Michelle Icard’s Middle School Makeover: Improving the Way You and Your Child Experience the Middle School Years. What were your big takeaways from that book?
First, that it’s so important for parents to change the way you think about middle school so you don’t project your own rough experiences from that time and stress your kids out. Also, that it helps to realize all the ups and downs are very normal at this age, and not necessarily a sign that anything is really wrong. Finally, and maybe most importantly, that one of the best things we as parents can do is just to spend time with our kids—that quantity time can be more important than quality time.
What should Middle School parents know about you as a division head?
I value conversation, because I learn the most when I talk with people and can understand their perspective. I have deep faith that God is with us and everything will turn out how it’s supposed to. I have a great sense of humor. And I actively try to choose to be happy and positive.
What might Middle School parents—and students—be surprised to know about you?
I love football, and I actually have a favorite NFL ref, Ed Hochuli. I also love Elvis. My dad had an 8-track player and he would play “Suspicious Minds” and we’d sit on the front porch and listen to it after he cut the grass. I wore blue suede shoes under my wedding dress.
Maybe less surprising to my students is that I love an agenda and color coding—and that books are my favorite thing in the world.
Any parting words?
I am so grateful for the opportunity to work at this school, where we embrace ideas and collaboration as part of how we function. I am so thankful that people trust me to educate their children. That is a huge responsibility that I take very seriously.