Freshman year of high school was difficult for Scott Seaman. He was a disengaged learner who struggled to apply himself in the classroom.
Yet Seaman’s Spanish teacher recognized his potential and challenged him to step up. Seaman responded, going on to earn his bachelor’s degree in Spanish and become a teacher at Capital High School in Olympia.
At Capital, Seaman found himself drawn to those students who weren’t affluent and college-bound, who didn’t always have an adult pushing them to fulfill their academic potential or aim for post-secondary education.
“They [the students] were often working in addition to going to school and possibly caring for younger siblings,” Seaman said. “Those kids caused me to start looking at the school holistically and ask, ‘What are we doing to help all of our students?’ I knew than that I wanted to have a bigger impact in education, beyond the walls of the classroom.”
Seeing students who needed more from their school prompted Seaman to pursue his principal credentials. At the age of 26, he was offered a job as the assistant principal at Tumwater High School, and three years later, he became principal of the school and held that position for the next 12 years.
Four years ago, Seaman made the tough decision to leave the school where he had spent the majority of his career to join the Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP) as its deputy executive director and director of high school programs.
“I look at that choice as a decision that was pivotal for my career,” he said. “I left the classroom to have a bigger impact on the school. Eventually, I would leave the school to have a bigger impact on the state.”
In his new role at AWSP, Seaman was responsible for providing resources and support for principals of K-12 schools in all of Washington’s 295 districts.
To support his work, Seaman turned to the University of Washington College of Education’s Leadership for Learning (EdD) program.
“I was attracted to the Leadership for Learning program because it was progressive, forward-thinking and cohort-based,” he said. “I was involved in a capstone project that honed in on my growth and potential as a leader. We are never doing research just for the sake of doing it. Everything that we do in the program connects directly to my role in the state.”
One of Seaman’s notable Leadership for Learning projects was creating an elementary school science video for AWSP, emphasizing the importance of supporting STEM programs in elementary schools.
“The video provided schools, districts and leaders across our state with a resource to create energy around why science shouldn’t be optional, and definitely not an afterthought. Every elementary school in our state should have a vibrant science programs that make kids curious and engaged in learning about their world. This video was designed to promote that culture shift in our state.”
Currently, Seaman is helping high school administrators in Washington tackle the issue of changing graduation requirements. The number of credits required has increased, making it nearly impossible for students to explore new interests. If students decide to challenge themselves with an advanced course and fail, they risk being unable to graduate on time.
Seaman is supporting administrators by having conversations with them about reconstructing the school day. Schools are being called to move from a traditional six-period day to a five-period trimester or a four-by-two alternating block schedule, among many other options. As administrators across the state share their concerns with Seaman, his Leadership for Learning cohort offers a sounding board to explore further solutions.
“I bring all of these issues into the cohort, where they challenge me to place myself in the program. How do I engage in a cycle of inquiry around this topic, work on it and then bring it back for more revision?”
Next year, Seaman will begin serving as the AWSP’s executive director. While ongoing structural changes are demanding for the state’s school administrators, Seaman believes they will ultimately have a positive impact on the students.
“To me, this state policy change has been a great opportunity for schools. It is forcing school administrators to have tough conversations about what is best for their students. It gives us an opportunity to reimagine and redesign the traditional high school system.”
Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications