A longtime and much-loved science teacher at Palo Alto High School died of natural causes at his home on Wednesday, Superintendent Max McGee confirmed Thursday morning.
Kenyon Scott, who has taught at Paly since the 1980s, did not show up to teach on Wednesday, which was "uncharacteristic," McGee said. Two of his colleagues went to his home and discovered him. The two then called 911, McGee said.
Paly Principal Kim Diorio sent a message to students, parents and alumni on Wednesday night announcing his death and offering counseling support and resources.
"This is a tremendous loss to all of us in the Paly family," Diorio wrote. "He will be greatly missed. We extend our deepest sympathies to Mr. Scott's family, friends and the many students and alumni whose lives he touched."
McGee described Scott as a deeply caring teacher with a "sense of humor and refreshing perspective on teaching and learning."
"He was one of these people who was always finding ways to help students and doing whatever it takes and (he) really brought a passion to his job," McGee said.
Scott first joined the teaching staff at Paly in 1985, McGee said. He has taught classes including physics, chemistry and Advanced Placement (AP) environmental science. He also served as Student Activities Director in the late 1980s, according to Arne Lim, a Paly math teacher who knew Scott since they were both first hired in 1985.
Scott then left Paly for a several-year stint at Apple, but returned in 2003.
Lim said he "remember(s) being very grateful the day I learned he was returning to teaching."
"Kenyon will always be remembered for his enthusiasm and infectious intensity for life," Lim wrote in an email to the Weekly. "Always optimistic, his spirit lifted everybody in the room. (He) didn't have a mean bone in his body. And his laugh was hearty and contagious."
A 2004 Palo Alto Weekly article captures Scott during an electric teaching moment, literally: He allowed visiting physicists from the University of California, Santa Cruz and engineers from the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center to send 1 million volts through his body to teach his physics students about electricity and Tesla coils, which can generate extremely high amounts of voltage.
Some Paly students remembered Scott on social media yesterday. "RIP to the man, the myth, the legend Kenyon Scott," Skylar Burris tweeted. "You will forever be in my heart. I couldn't be luckier to say that you taught me."
"Kenyon Scott was not only a great teacher, but a great man," Justin Rittman wrote.
Paly student online news outlet, the Paly Voice, posted a collection of social media posts honoring Scott.
McGee said Scott especially supported historically underrepresented students at Paly. His name came up during focus groups the district's Minority Achievement and Talent Development committee conducted with students, McGee said.
Scott was "somebody who cared and they liked his AP class and felt they could succeed in it. He was truly a trusted and caring adult for all kids, but especially for kids like that," McGee said.
"It's left a big void in the department, in the school and in the district," McGee added. "He's left a legacy of caring and love and humor and compassion and, I think, inspiration for all of us."
Lim, too, described the legacy Scott leaves: "What he represented to me is what I remember when I was student in PAUSD and when I was just starting as a teacher: longevity as a teacher, care and forgiveness and understanding for the kids, high standards of expectations for achievement and behavior from the students, and availability to those in need."
Grief counselors from Palo Alto nonprofit Kara will be at the school this week to provide extra support to students and staff, Diorio wrote in her message.
She also asked parents to tell their students because they don't all receive messages from online information system Infinite Campus.
"We encourage discussion about the loss, the feelings it gives rise to, and ways that we can respond," Diorio wrote.
A celebration of Scott's life will be held at Paly on Saturday, Jan. 23, at 2 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Kenyon Scott Scholarship Fund, c/o Palo Alto High School, 50 Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto, CA 94301.