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The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

As Ken George makes the shift from green and white to blue and orange, he will remain connected to FHC through family: both given and found

Mr. George will leave a hole in FHCs heart and will never be forgotten as a beloved teacher, mentor, and friend.
Lucy Gruber
Mr. George will leave a hole in FHC’s heart and will never be forgotten as a beloved teacher, mentor, and friend.

Various times throughout the process of interviewing basketball coach and English and Writing for Publication teacher, the one-and-only Ken George, he was passed by a colleague or a student, and each time, without fail, he would stop to say “Hi.”

Saying a simple hello, as inconsequential as it may be, is second nature to him. Caring about everyone with whom he crosses paths, is second nature to George.

And, although he will always be connected to FHC, as he leaves behind his job as an educator here, the absence of his ubiquitous presence in the halls will be felt deeply by all of the lives he impacted, all of the relationships he forged, and all of the hallway hellos he will no longer be there to give.

Through each hello, each lesson, and each day, George got to wake up and come to the job that has defined so much of his life; he was building a community within the green and white hallways that he has spent the past 30 years in.

“I think if I had one strength as a teacher, it was building a community and then trying to make people feel comfortable but challenged and energized by that community at the same time,” George said, “and I tried to do that in every hour, every year, all the time. I failed sometimes succeeded sometimes—but to try to build a culture of community and belief and trust and love and engagement and still be academic is a real skill. I don’t think I have ever been great at analyzing literature or at teaching what a metaphor is or whatever because I can do that, but I don’t think that’s what I do best. I think my strong point has been building community and making people give me their very best.” 

Although George never really believed that the technical parts of teaching were his strength, he still strived every day to create an environment where students would feel welcome and known for more than their identity as a student.

For George, teaching has never been just a job. From the moment he walked into his classroom and saw all of his students for the first time, he immediately knew it was what he wanted for the rest of his life. Unlike a typical nine-to-five job, teaching has been something that has been intrinsically intertwined with all aspects of his life. George pours every ounce of his passion and energy into his students, his coworkers, and his teaching, and that is just one small part of what has made the last 30 years so rewarding.

“I think some people have jobs that are jobs,” George said. “They do their job, then they go home, and they have their life. I think some people have jobs that merge with their life. And, I mean, this job has been my life; there’s no differentiation. I was here for [30] years. I was the varsity coach. I was here every night. And so, with my family, you know, my kids were in my classes, my kids played [for me]; it was our life. It was a merged thing, and for that, I’m really, really thankful because something about my heart needs that. I don’t think I could go sell furniture, and then at 5:15 p.m., get home and then go on with life, and then the next day, go sell furniture. I don’t know why it’s built into me, but the fact that it was my life is so cool.”

The indistinguishable connection George has forged between his work and home life has only made every part of both more special, overlapping and creating one continuous, endlessly rewarding life—his life.

As inconceivable as it may be, he did not know right away that this would come to be his profession, as suiting as it may be. He comes from a long line of teachers, which originally repelled him from the career. Luckily, one day, he was caught in traffic, which gave him a moment to reflect, and he found himself without a sense of purpose and meaning within his professional life. And in that moment, he knew he needed to be a teacher.

A photo of George with his dad, also a teacher.

He then began coaching basketball at his alma mater, Albion College, while taking education classes and working as an assistant director of admissions. One of the schools he worked with in that position just so happened to be FHC; when the head basketball coach quit, he jumped on the opportunity to apply, not necessarily confident, and got the coaching job, as well as a teaching position that he hadn’t definitely planned on.

So, he settled into his new job and, with it, his new room, and everything started to become real.

“I still remember moving into [my first] room,” George said. “I remember being in there really, really late at night, the night before my first day of teaching. And the custodians were in there cleaning. And I thought to myself, how special that was that they were here in the middle of the night, getting it ready for me and for the kids. I was so emotionally tied to the moment that was coming up to teach those kids. And I even mentioned that on the first day in class. I was like, ‘We need to be thankful for all the people that let us do this.’”

This surreal moment for George, the calm before the wonderful storm of teaching, has stuck with him throughout the past 30 years of his career. And now, his son, varsity basketball coach Jordan George, will get to experience this same feeling as he takes over as an English and Writing for Publication teacher. 

Jordan has lots of experience with teaching simply from growing up around “Mr. George.” Much of his life has been centered around FHC, and the effect of this is that he is entering this job with prior knowledge of the school’s values and community.

“Growing up around a school environment made for an awesome childhood—I grew up with a love of learning, working with others, and a pride for FHC,” Jordan said. “I have so many fond memories of growing up in the school. Having my dad as a teacher was a really valuable experience; it was great to see him every day up close, just how energetic of a teacher he is.”

George’s influence is apparent to everyone around him and has inspired so many—including Jordan—over his years teaching both in school and at home. Many people have found the George family’s impact irreplaceable, whether it be for basketball, teaching, or just life in general. 

Social studies teacher Kyle Carhart has had a long history with the George family, one he will forever cherish. He knows that Jordan will continue to uphold the same principles as his father, therefore benefiting the school greatly and bringing the experience full circle. 

“Shortly after I was hired, I stopped meeting him in the gym or calling him or texting him or emailing him as often because I could just pop over and stop in his classroom,” Carhart said. “It seemed like I did that all the time when I first started and still did for the first five years. And then, his son has coached with me for the last three years, and it’s been an incredible experience to have that family impact. A lot of the major decisions that I’ve had in my life and in helping Jordan take over the program have been extremely rewarding because I know that he has the same values and the same ideas that Coach George does. That’s all you could ever ask for in a person to lead a program and a school that I care a fair bit about after having gone here. I always say that the only two people I’ve ever heard say that teaching high school English and coaching high school basketball was their dream job are Coach George and Jordan. I think that for that to come full circle as well is something that the school’s really going to benefit from.” 

George with his son, Jordan, who’s taking over the class.

In a way, George isn’t truly leaving FHC, as Jordan will continue teaching and coaching. George will still always have a familial and emotional connection to the school. However, the transition from full-time teacher to full-time coach is a difficult one to process, especially since George has spent so much of his life pouring all his devotion into his students and the tight-knit community. 

Since his first day as a teacher at FHC, George has changed tremendously and wholly from the person he was before, from a determined young adult to a beloved teacher and friend. George knows he will always have a strong connection to FHC through his son, his friends, and his students, who have given him the world in exchange for his time as a teacher. 

“When I walked in here, I was 24, single, I drove a little green sports car, I wanted to coach, and I wanted to teach,” George said. “And I was seriously a kid; even though I was 24, I just felt so young. And now I’m a totally different person, not in a bad way or a good way. I’m just in a totally different place in my life, with my kids, whom I was able to teach, and with all the people who have impacted me here. I pretty much gave my life to this building and this community, I would say. But in return, I think the building, the kids, the teachers, and the community gave it all back tenfold. This is where I raised my kids, and I’ll leave, but I won’t really leave because Jordan is here coaching. I think it’s pretty cool to still feel connected. I just don’t think this part of my life will ever be fully disconnected from me because of the family connection I still have here and the long history of people that have meant a lot to me, that have walked through these halls.”

Many people see high school as a place where students get to grow up and transition into adulthood, but they don’t see the ways in which teachers do the same. George has lived his life while working here, and FHC has seen him through a myriad of milestones. While he has primarily worked with high school students, George has seized the opportunity to work with more ages through his basketball camps in the summer, and he has utilized other chances to meet very young players at the varsity basketball games.

One of those young students was Carhart, who met George at a young age and was coached by him, taught by him, and most recently, taught with him. While their relationship started with basketball, it has only continued to build.

“When I was in elementary school, [George] had just been hired as the varsity basketball coach, and my parents used to take me to those games when I was little,” Carhart said. “I thought it was such a huge deal to meet the varsity basketball coach. And even in that first encounter, it was one of those things where I just knew that our paths were gonna cross several times from then on.”

The basketball program has been such a substantial part of George’s time at FHC, and every player he coached would testify that he is a motivating, organized, and effectual coach both on and off the court.

From meeting players like Carhart and coaching them over the course of their high school years to coaching side-by-side with social studies and business teacher Jared Lowe, George was a crucial facet in FHC’s basketball program. His impact spans not only his players but also his fellow coaches, such as his assistant coach, Lowe.

“Honestly, [my relationship with George] is the best,” Lowe said. “When I started my career here 22 years ago, he was one of the first people I met and connected with personally and professionally. We quickly became friends, and our relationship grew a lot, given the time we spent together during and after school hours, especially during basketball season. He has been a mentor to me and is someone who’s always been there for me. His family, Meg, Jordan, and Ty, have become my family, not just my friends.”

George and Lowe with their basketball team in 2007.

The relationships he has formed with his colleagues have only grown stronger over the years of teaching and coaching. Although George didn’t plan to begin another coaching career after retiring from coaching at FHC, he was approached by Hope College about the position of assistant coach when his son, Ty George, began playing there.

Wanting to give Ty his own individual experience at Hope after years of coaching him here, he originally did not accept. However, once Ty was an established part of the team and was entering his junior year, George accepted the position as a part-time, assistant coach.

That was four years ago, and now he has been offered a full-time, assistant coach position that he has accepted. He feels honored that Hope is taking the chance on him, as they’ve never had a full-time assistant.

Principally, George looks ahead to being more involved with the team at Hope and helping to take the team to the next level in the coming years. He foresees aspects of teaching carrying over into coaching, such as the passion he employs with the people he works with.

“I think the last four years have been good [at Hope],” George said. “So I want to make it the best, and I want to pour into the players, and I think that’s cool because I think that’s what I’ll miss about teaching here: pouring into people. I think I’ll still get some of the pouring into people through the coaching. I think if I would just leave this and then go work part-time delivering flowers or something, I would be missing something. I feel like I will still be with a team a whole season and have that.”

This passion for teaching and coaching has made an everlasting impression upon the people in George’s life, especially on his friends from basketball. Even with transitioning to the singular job at FHC of teaching Honors English 10 and Writing for Publication in 2018, George is still known as Coach George to many of his previous players and friends from his basketball career. 

George has gotten used to constantly hearing “Mr. George” when addressed, and now, with his retirement, he will once again be called Coach George in a new atmosphere, further continuing his legacy of teaching and coaching. He knows he will miss the association with his teaching career by his students, as he will no longer be teaching full-time at Hope. 

“I mean, it’s weird because my whole life, I’ve been Mr. George in the grocery store and Mr. George when I run into people,” George said. “So I think that might be hard for me. But I still have that with all of the kids I did teach. I think I’ll struggle without the interactions with kids because they are really vital to me, staying young and staying energized because I’m so energized by my students.”

Even though there are countless things that George will miss about teaching at FHC, the paramount concern for him has always been his students. The vitalized, positive attitudes that the students bring to the care and love in the classroom made an eternal impact on George. Because of this, when first considering the job offer from Hope, his initial restraint was the welfare of his students. However, George hopes that his students learned one significant thing from him during his teaching career: hope. 

George and his sons, Jordan and Ty.

Although George is perfectly adept at teaching writing skills and grammar to his students, he wants them to know that besides that, he has always cared about each and every single student’s life and well-being outside of the classroom walls. This is the kind of legacy George aspires to leave behind in the halls of FHC.

“I hope that kids felt that I cared about them and knew more than just their writing skills or where a comma went and that I didn’t know it, just to know it,” George said. “I actually tried to treat every student as an individual human who has individual stuff, and I tried to connect to them in every way that I could. I think it’s really ironic that I’m going to work at Hope because I think if I tried to do anything in my teaching career, I would try to be a person who gave kids hope so that they could walk into my room and be excited to be there. I teach English and all that other stuff, but I think I taught hope more than I’ve taught English, and I hope that people remember that.”

George isn’t sure what legacy he’ll leave behind once he’s gone, but the community of FHC believes that through George’s kindness, compassion, and appreciation, he’s created an indestructible legacy of love and acceptance at FHC.

“We always talk about leaving a place better than you found it,” Carhart said. “I just tried to hold on the basketball program while I was there. But to think about [how] when we started the team, we weren’t held in high regard, and then for him to finish it as one of the best programs in Michigan, especially West Michigan, is a testament to his hard work. And I think the same thing for the school newspaper, TCT and Sports Report. Any students that I talk to about having been in that class or having that experience all echo the same thing: it’s a class they love, and they enjoy the experience, and I think that’s also a testament to his diligence and hard work and pushing students, which will certainly be missed when he’s gone.” 

“I just hope that Mr. George knows how much he has affected the lives of so many students over so many years,” sophomore Evelyn Alt said. “He has had such an immensely positive impact on every single one of his students, athletes, and coworkers, and I really hope he knows how much every single one of us loves and appreciates him.”

George and his wife, Meg George.

“Ken George is an absolute legend,” Fisher said, “and the loss of his wisdom and experience will be felt profoundly for years to come. I have seen him work with students one-on-one, lead classes, and coach teams for years. His professionalism, empathy, and dedication have without question left hundreds of students feeling more confident, more valued, and generally more positive about their abilities in and out of the classroom.”

“The legacy that Mr. George will leave will be a huge one,” graduated senior Sofia Hargis-Acevedo said. “He will be remembered as an incredible coach, an inspiring teacher, and the reason that The Central Trend is here today. In the time that he has taught at FHC, he has accomplished so much, and it will always linger throughout the halls.”

“It’s definitely bittersweet to see him leaving FHC,” Jordan said. “I know he’s had such a huge impact on so many people, but the cool thing is that he’s going to continue impacting people in this new role.”

“Mr. George has devoted his life to being an outstanding educator and coach,” principal Steve Passinault said. “He has a genuine love for his students and a passion for helping them be successful in the English classroom and, more importantly, in life.”

All of these words spoken about George showcase the unbelievable human that he is. He is deeply appreciated by every student who walks into his room and every teacher he works with, and the fact that he is leaving is incomprehensible to many. He has created a home for students within the walls of rooms 139 and 140, and for that, he is endlessly appreciated. 

On the wall of room 140 reads a quote by transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau; George’s Honors English 10 classes have experienced transcendentalism through a unit George has created. 

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.

— Henry David Thoreau

And through that quote, George sees the reflection of the life he has built, the life he has imagined.

“This Thoreau quote talks about how you should build the life that you’ve imagined,” George said. “I think I really like the idea that you can do that, because of the incredibly great situation most of us are in. We all have issues, but despite that, you can still impact and build the life that you want. Sometimes, I do feel that you guys feel not totally in control of where you’re going and what your life’s gonna be. I think that quote up there by Thoreau talks about how people can build the life they’ve really imagined, and, man, I’ve done that. I built the perfect life.”


Many of the students and staff that we interviewed had more to say about George and his effect on FHC, and we have compiled the messages here.

“Thank you for everything you’ve done this year,” sophomore Josie Nugent said. “We will all miss you so much! This year has been so much fun with you; I’ll remember FHC Inspires forever! Wishing you the best for your future at Hope.”

“He will be missed, is truly irreplaceable, and this building will indeed be much different without him in it,” Lowe said. “I hope he enjoys retirement and takes time for himself after giving back to so many over his illustrious career here at FHC.”

“Mr. George, I will forever be grateful that you helped show me what I am capable of and what I am worth,” alum Katelynn Heilman said. “My family and I value you and your impact on us greatly. It’s sad to know FHC is losing such a powerfully positive force, but I know that you’ll find a way to change people’s lives no matter what you do.”

“I had looked forward to having you as my teacher, but I didn’t realize how much you would change my life,” freshman Addie McDowell said. “Thank you for everything that you’ve done for me this past year; I’m going to miss you so much.”

“I know that a new person will step in to try and fill the hole you are leaving in our hearts, and I understand that opportunity called, and you had to answer… Just don’t expect me to be happy about it,” Fisher said. “Most especially given that my daughter will never know your masterful pedagogy, your humorous rapport, or your infectious smile. I’ll miss you, my friend.”

“Next year, I am going to miss having teachers that I feel care about me,” sophomore Elle Manning said. “Mr. George is one of those. He is one of the few teachers I have ever had who stops to ask students about their lives outside of just their grades. He remembers the little things about his students, like what sports they do or where they work, and I have enjoyed eavesdropping on the way he asks students these small details.” 

“It’s hard to think about [him leaving] because it feels like I’ve known him my whole life, but I have an unbelievable debt of gratitude for what he’s meant to me,” Carhart said. “And more importantly, I think for Central in general. So thank you for caring as much as you did and for all of the hard work that nobody notices until you’re actually really around him and really see it, and you know, thank you.” 

“I would say [the best part of Mr. George] is his loudness,” freshman Micah McClarty said. “Even though I don’t have class with him this semester. I’ll come in and say hi, and it’s really, really fun to come in and just say hi because he’s such a boisterous, funny dude. I hope that Hope treats him just as well because he’s a really good teacher and I’m sure a great basketball coach.”

“My brother Jorge is the embodiment of a great teacher: dedicated, caring, and friendly,” Spanish teacher Carlos Silvestre said. “He will be missed!”

“I can’t even begin to explain how much I’m going to miss him,” junior Rowan Szpieg said. “He has pushed me in a way that no other teacher has, and I know he’s always waited to watch me succeed in whatever I’m trying to accomplish next.”

“Mr. George has changed my perspective on a lot of things,” junior Luccini Rodriguez said. “He has taught me that life doesn’t always have to be filled with pressures and that it’s okay to slow down and enjoy things. He’s pushed me out of my comfort zone more times than I can count and has believed in my success before I’ve been able to see it. Mostly, he’s taught me to find true purpose in the things I’m doing and the energy and genuine care that he has brought to my life is something I will truly miss.”

“Mr. George, you have been such an influence on me for the past two years, and I can’t imagine school without you,” sophomore Ellerie Knowles said. “Thank you so much.” 

“Mr. George, thank you so much for everything you have done for me,” junior Alex Smith said. “You have been with me for every step of my high school career, and I am going to miss you immensely. You have taught me so many life lessons and what it means to be a good person. I have been so blessed to get the chance to know you, and it isn’t going to be the same here without you.”

“My dad inspires me in just about every way possible,” Jordan said. “I’d say the biggest lesson that I’ve learned from him is to never do anything halfway. He’s always shown me what it looks like to fully commit yourself to something.”

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About the Contributors
Addie Woltil
Addie Woltil, Copy Editor
Addie Woltil is a sophomore entering her second year writing for The Central Trend. She is excited about another year of writing on staff and more to come. In her free time, she enjoys hanging out with friends, going to the mall, and watching overrated reality TV shows. She loves ending her day in room 139 and can't wait for what's next. Favorite fruit: Mango Favorite TV show: How I Met Your Mother Favorite day of the year: July 24th
Ella Peirce
Ella Peirce, Copy Editor
Ella is a sophomore who is delighted to be returning to The Central Trend for a second year. Ella has been a competitive figure skater for as long as she can remember, and she also plays volleyball. Her other interests include hanging out with her friends, listening to music, rewatching her favorite sitcoms, reorganizing her Pinterest boards, and spending time with her pet bunny. She is endlessly excited for this year on staff and cannot wait to continue growing her love for writing. Favorite sitcom: Community Favorite stories to write: Columns and Reviews Current favorite rom-com: 500 Days of Summer
Maylee Ohlman
Maylee Ohlman, Staff Writer
Maylee Ohlman is a sophomore going on to her first year on The Central Trend.  She spontaneously decided to join Writing for Publication this year and is now excited to keep writing for the rest of her time in high school. She dances on the FHCVDT in the winter. In her free time, she loves to read, swim at the beach, and try new bubble tea spots across Michigan. Maylee loves to feel like a tourist anywhere she goes and aspires to travel as much as she can in her lifetime. Besides reading and traveling, she's always loved movies and good food, and hopes to eventually combine her passions into a journalism career. Favorite book: I Hope This Doesn't Find You by Ann Liang Favorite TV show: The Last of Us Current favorite song: No One Knows by Stephen Sanchez and Laufey Go-to bubble tea order: A peach milk tea with lychee jelly and tapioca pearls

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