The award is made each year by the Arizona Educational Foundation to recognize excellence in teaching.
The most important thing a teacher can do is “develop relationships with kids—be a role model and a mentor,” says Bowman, who teaches 11th- and 12th-grade International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge and Advanced Placement U.S. History at Westwood High School in the Mesa Public School District.
“Seventy-five percent of teaching has nothing to do with memorization of content,” says Bowman. “Everyone needs to be engaged every day, whether it’s lecture, an activity or debates. Kids will be successful if they develop critical thinking and communication skills.”
Bowman’s students use words like “engaging, involved, thorough and relatable” to describe him. Bowman describes himself as “passionate about social studies and humanities” and someone who “loves to talk.”
Bowman’s favorite lesson to teach is pro se (self-representation) court debate. Bowman divides the class into groups of three—a judge and two opposing sides. Students debate topics like manifest destiny or the dropping of the atomic bomb. The small groups give each student a role in the process.
Bowman chose to be a teacher because he wanted “to give back.” Bowman’s father—a military man, policy officer and teacher– instilled in him a belief that “public service is important,” he says.
Interaction with students and colleagues is Bowman’s favorite part of his job; low pay and a lack of appreciation for what teachers do are the most challenging.
Most teachers work late nights and early mornings preparing lessons and grading papers in addition to leading many activities, sports and other school programs. Bowman wants to develop an appreciation for the commitment so many teachers have for their profession.
As teacher of the year, Bowman plans to advocate for teachers around the state by changing the dialogue—to steer the focus away from Arizona’s low education budgets and per-pupil spending and focus more on the great things teachers are doing on a daily basis.
“Funding is a challenge, but educators are still doing amazing things in spite of that,” says Bowman.