John "Shawn" Stover

Superintendent, Rockingham County Schools, N.C.

Years as a Staff Member/Positions held: I worked at Camp for five years. I was a counselor and my last job was as Program Director.

Current Profession and Title/Years in role: Superintendent, Rockingham County Schools (NC) as of July 2022

Can you tell us a little about how you first started your career path in education?
When I was graduating college I opened up The Daily Tar Heel and there was an ad: “Who will teach for America?” No one knew what Teach for America was at that point, as it was its first year in 1990. I thought to myself, I’ve taught swimming lessons, I’ve worked at the YMCA, I’ve babysat and helped raised my younger brother and sister, maybe I’ll teach for America. During my interview, I taught the arm movements of the elementary backstroke because I had perfected that at Kanata. I think of the strength of that lesson I was part of the first cohort of Teach for America.

What similarities or differences do you see working in both Camps and schools?
I think in the school setting, we're so obsessed with an outcome of getting to a number that we lose the purpose of education. Camp creates the circumstances in which kids thrive. When you can create conditions that kids are the best versions of themselves then the results are going to come. But we are so obsessed with the short-term that we don't think about the long-term big picture. Camp is about creating an amazing experience for kids and they’re going to do amazing things when you do that. In education, we think about the numbers first. We don't think about the experience. We are much more focused on the outcome because of the accountability. I think I was able to learn that if you focus on the experience, the outcome will come.

How would you describe your leadership style?
My leadership style is servant leadership and I think a lot of that was formed at Kanata. I very much have a strong opinion on what should happen in our school system and where we should go and it's my job to have that strong opinion and ensure everybody gets on board with it. It's also my job to serve and do whatever it takes to ensure that we get to our shared vision and our goals. No one person is more important than any other person in that endeavor.

How do the values or skills you learned at Camp show up in your everyday work and/or personal life?
I learned it’s all about creating a social/emotional bond between yourself and kids, creating that sense of trust. Kids will do amazing things for you if they feel that you're on their side, that you have respect for them, that you love them, and that you're there for them. Camp has helped shape how I raise my kids and the values that I hold, what I was taught, especially as a counselor working at Kanata. I feel like I grew up there because I kept on having more and more responsibility. It not only introduced me to working with kids, but also to the administrative side. I've reflected back and I had a lot of responsibility at a relatively young age. At 21 I was in charge of a ton of people as well as the whole camper experience for 10 weeks. That helped spark what was already in me. I love kids, I loved to help them be the best versions of themselves. You learn how to do that at Camp.

Is there a person or a situation that had a huge influence on you while you were at Camp? How and why did they/it impact you?
Richard Hamilton was Program Director, Aquatics Director, and Assistant Camp Director. He was a co-counselor with me in my first year and he was a mentor and a great role model for me.

Favorite Camp song: Squeegee Hunt

What three words best describe you: Optimistic, energetic, focused

Words of wisdom: Just be yourself. Be OK with who you are. You can't control what other people think of you. You can only control what you think of yourself and be comfortable in your own skin because it's great and you're going find people who are just like you and who are as weird as you think you are. Trust that you're going to find your point and purpose in life. The quicker you can do that, the quicker you will be comfortable with who you are and reach some of the goals that you have for yourself.

Shawn Stover