Alumni Profile - Justin Scott '91
Justin Scott '91 – Responsibility
When faced with the reality of moving to an all-digital learning platform this past spring, Central Catholic teachers took on the huge responsibility of ensuring that students would have the best virtual experience possible. Our teachers created new plans and strategies for instruction, each dealing with challenges they encountered along the way. Of all the classes experiencing challenges with this new platform, one might expect the PE and Wellness classes to be at the top of this list. However, Justin Scott ‘91, PE and Wellness teacher and Department Chair, embraced this new challenge with enthusiasm and ingenuity. He went above and beyond to help his classes, sports teams, and staff remain healthy and well during this time. He approached his work with a profound sense of responsibility for each student, helping to equip each with lifelong skills. Justin’s approach to the challenges presented by digital learning demonstrates how he exemplifies the virtue of responsibility.
In addition to being Department Chair and teaching PE and strength training classes, Justin serves as the strength and wellness coach for all Central Catholic sports teams, and he spends time after school with recreational lifters. He loved the challenge of teaching PE classes virtually, and felt it was a new and unique way to connect with students. One obstacle he first encountered when starting digital learning was students’ access to gym equipment at home. Some students had nothing at all, while others had nearly a full gym. In order to accommodate these different needs, Justin created over 250 workouts for his teams and classes, and designed the programs to be completed at home and over Zoom. “It's so much fun,” he shares. “It's almost like one-to-one interactions. I love hearing back from the kids. I do check-ins with them, so I ask, ’Okay, how’s it going, what are your numbers, are you improving?’ And some of these kids are excelling doing these by themselves, as they don’t have as many distractions and they have more time.”
Justin’s favorite part of his work is being able to connect with his students and show them how to be responsible, take care of themselves, and carry wellness into their future. “I tell them all the time, ‘The nice thing about taking care of yourself, everything you do is completely yours. With this, you take it with you for the rest of your life.’”
Justin’s success in teaching is due in part to his ability to relate to the change and challenges that students were undergoing this past spring. When he was a teenager, he transferred into Central Catholic in 1987 after moving from rural southeast Idaho. It was intimidating and a bit scary coming from living on a farm in a small town, to a new, big city. As a student, he had many teachers who helped instill confidence in him, but he remembers Jim Delegato ‘74, his PE and weightlifting teacher, as having a profound impact on his life. “With humor and being funny and things like that, he took me under his wing,” Justin shares. “I tell people all the time, without him and his guidance, I would not be who I am today.” Justin found a new confidence in wellness and in his weight lifting class.
Justin displayed a sense of responsibility as a teenager, helping his family at an early age. “I was the super poor kid and I couldn't do sports because I had to work to pay tuition and all of those things,” Justin recalls. “I think that taught me the importance of taking responsibility for certain things, because I wanted to branch out and do sports and all of those fun things. But I was, and still am, a huge nerd and so I was always in the library playing Dungeons and Dragons.”
What Justin appreciated about Central Catholic then, and still does today, was the feeling of safety in trying new things. “I didn’t really know it then, but I do now. It felt really safe,” he notes. “It took all those fears that I had, and when I was in the building, I felt very secure, very safe.”
After graduating from Central Catholic, there were a lot of unknowns for Justin, but he took his love of fitness with him. “I graduated from high school, and the first thing that I did when I graduated, (because you know, people give you money and things like that) I bought a weight set and set it up in my bedroom. But I had no idea what I wanted to be, what I wanted to do.” Justin enrolled in Portland Community College and tried his hand at many different subjects, including education, biology, and criminal justice, but nothing really stuck. In 1996, he was finishing up school and paid a visit to Central Catholic and caught up with Sister Jerome Zerr, OSB. When Sr. Jerome heard he was competing and doing personal training, she introduced him to the football coach at the time, Terry Summerfield. Terry offered him his first job at Central Catholic. Justin decided that working at Central Catholic might be more fun than what he was currently doing (selling women’s shoes at Meier & Frank!) and went from teaching PE and wellness, to leading the department today.
Central Catholic has given Justin the confidence and sense of security to experiment as a teacher. “The administration has never micromanaged; you have a bit of autonomy to try new things and really experiment and kind of hone your craft.” Justin has aspirations for the Central Catholic wellness department to be the most cutting-edge in the state. “When I first came here, PE was just typical PE, it was just about activities,” Justin shares. “Collectively, as a department, our emphasis is not the game aspect, it's how do you take care of yourself? How can you show kids something completely different that they didn’t know they would actually like?”
“It is such a great experience,” he continues. “I can’t even tell you the relationships I made and the people that I have the honor of getting to know. There is a reason why you have so many alumni come back here and teach. It's the experience, education, and community that makes you want to come back.”
Justin feels the students today are not all that different from when he was a student, and believes they have a great sense of responsibility. “I talk to kids, and ask them, ‘Hey where have you been? Why haven’t I seen you in the weight room?’ ‘Oh, you know I had to take care of my little brothers and sister because my parents have to work.’ Or, ‘I need to go to my job to help pay my tuition.’ Many kids are in the same boat, ‘I have this service thing that I am doing every single day.’”
One thing he does feel makes this generation different, is they don’t have the same coping skills and that resilience that they need when facing life. The hardest thing for Justin is when kids are faced with something really tough. He feels responsible for his students outside of the gyms. “Talking with kids in my role, it's a blessing, it really is. Also, I carry it. It's kind of hard to let it go sometimes. You invest so much in these kids, you really, really want the best for them, so that's one of the difficulties.” He says, “I tell the kids, I’m not a very good teacher, but I am a good listener. It's going to be okay.”
Life has come full circle for Justin, a self-proclaimed ‘pudgy-nerd’ who came to Central Catholic not knowing what his future would hold. While he has experience training athletes at higher levels than high school, he feels Central Catholic is where he belongs. “I work with top-end athletes in the school, and that’s great. But I enjoy working with kids who are socially awkward or really, really insecure, or don’t have self-confidence; watching kids like that and watching kids change completely. My students are such sponges right now. It is beyond satisfying to know this is what I am supposed to be doing.”
Justin hopes he can be there for students and help them to get something out of their Central Catholic experience, the way Jim Delegato did for him. “I think that for me, having been a poor kid, a nerdy kid at Central, it gives me a different perspective that I can kind of empathize and relate to the kids that are struggling a little bit and needing to find something that is theirs. Those are the kids that stand out.”
We are blessed to have Justin Scott responsible not only for teaching our students wellness, but being there for them through the good and tough times in their lives.