In 1990, George H. W. Bush was president, the Cincinnati Reds won the World Series, gas cost $1.08 a gallon, and it was the year Greg Schuett started his 30-year legacy as principal of Cuyamaca Outdoor School.
Schuett joined Cuyamaca as an experienced outdoor education leader. After receiving his degree in Natural Sciences and Environmental Education from Michigan State University, he packed up and headed to California to look for a job. He started working for the Orange County Department of Education in their outdoor science program, where he started the Environmental Field Studies Program, which grew to serve 25,000 students annually during his tenure.
In 1990, the San Diego County Office of Education had an opening at the longest running outdoor school program in California. Greg applied and stayed for 30 years.
“Every week of every year for 30 years I focused on how we could make the program better for students,” Schuett said. “I collaborated with staff, visiting teachers, stakeholders, and more to seek ideas that we could incorporate into our program. The fun part was I got to decide which ideas we incorporated.”
Schuett has worked under numerous superintendents, assistant superintendents, and directors. He has served almost 300,000 students, 9,500 teachers, and 3,500 school groups from all over San Diego County and beyond. His goal for continual program improvement has made the outdoor school a model program in California and across the country.
“Principal Greg has been inspiring students to appreciate nature and think like a scientist, motivating staff to be their best (both professionally and personally), and influencing outdoor education across the state,” said incoming Principal Kris Pamintuan. “He will be deeply missed.”
Schuett said he’ll miss most everything about his job, from the drive in the morning from Julian to Cuyamaca, to greeting his staff, sharing meal time and playing basketball with students, and hearing stories from visiting teachers about how their students had grown socially, emotionally, and academically during their week at camp.
Over the years, Schuett has been recognized with several awards for his service to students and to the environment. Most recently, he received the Community Campership Council’s Exemplary Career Contributions to Outdoor Education award and the Volcan Mountain Foundation’s Environmental Guardian Award, both in 2019.
While managing the program, he also raised a family with his wife, who is a teacher. During his tenure, he was also a leader in the Julian community. For 27 years, he served as president and vice president for the Volcan Mountain Foundation, a local conservation organization, and served four years on the Julian Union High School District school board.
Fittingly, Schuett’s plans for retirement include a cross-country tour of the national parks, travel abroad, time with family, and an eventual return to volunteer work with some environmental organizations. His last day is June 26.
Several SDCOE and COS staff members have shared their thoughts on working with Greg over the last three decades.
Susanne Beattie, COS education specialist: “I have had the honor of working with Greg for 30 years. He has been my principal, my mentor, and now, my friend. As Cuyamaca Outdoor School enters its 75th year, Greg will be missed by his staff as well as the classroom teachers who have been bringing their students up for years.”
Bruce Peterson, SSP executive director: "Greg has a passion for helping students develop an appreciation for the great outdoors. He is constantly evaluating the program and finding new ways to make improvements and a quality experience for all students."
Kris Pamintuan, COS vice principal and incoming principal: For 30 years, Principal Greg has been inspiring students to appreciate nature and think like a scientist, motivating staff to be their best (both professionally and personally), and influencing outdoor education across the state. He will be deeply missed.
Emelie Traub, COS education specialist: "Greg goes out of his way to personally greet each member of his staff daily and never fails to show us his gratitude for the work we do. He makes even the most challenging students feel respected with his calm and caring demeanor. His lessons in Equal Pupil Response teaching techniques create an equitable learning experience for all our students. I look forward to seeing the joy and fulfillment that retirement brings him, knowing that he has left this legacy at camp."
Dustin Burns, outdoor education project specialist: "I still remember the first time I met Greg Schuett. It was in 1993 and I was just a kid at 23 years old. The Santee School District rented the Cuyamaca site for a junior high weekend leadership retreat. I was one of the ASB advisors at Cajon Park School. While I was working with all the kids in the dining hall, Greg walked in and observed me with my kids. During a break he started talking with me and asked if I would be interested in observing the 6th grade camp program. I told him, ‘SURE, I loved 6th grade camp!’
The following week I came back to Cuyamaca to observe, and while I was there, one of the outdoor education specialists quit. Greg asked me if I wanted the long-term substitute job, and the rest is history! I have been with outdoor education ever since - one year as a long-term sub, one year as intern, 25 years as a permanent employee with SDCOE, and 27 years with Greg Schuett.
His retirement is very bittersweet for me. I can’t imagine the outdoor school without him. As the longest tenured principal in Cuyamaca’s history, he’s done some amazing things for the kids of San Diego County and I‘ve had the privilege to be a wingman on his journey."