Lindsay Bowley is an eighth-grade language arts and Georgia history teacher at the middle school.
The unsuspecting teacher said she was surprised when Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo showed up at her classroom door with a bouquet of roses at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
“As soon as I saw Dr. P there with roses in his hand, I knew (why he was at the door),” Bowley said. “It’s very, very humbling.”
Petruzielo said Bowley is an “insatiable volunteer: in her school, her community, her church … and our world.”
“We’re proud to have someone like Ms. Bowley working in our system,” Petruzielo said. “She clearly has a calling to be a teacher, and she was born to work with teenagers.”
Bowley was selected by her peers to be Creekland’s Teacher of the Year, and said she was humbled to be chosen as the district’s Teacher of the Year.
“There’s just so many great teachers out there and it’s very, very humbling,” Bowley said. “I was very surprised.”
She was hired seven years ago by Creekland Principal Dr. Deborah Wiseman, who said it was no surprise such a passionate and exceptional teacher like Bowley was selected.
“When her peers voted for her (to represent the school) I was thrilled,” Wiseman said. “While Cherokee County has an array of exceptional teachers, Ms. Bowley stands out as the best of the best.”
Wiseman said “it says a lot” about Creekland Middle School and the Cherokee School District to have such an awesome teacher representing the district as Teacher of the Year.
“I am very honored to have her here at my school, and if I could clone her I would,” Wiseman said. “She gets to know her kids, and what they’re interested in, and takes a personal interest in each one and tries to develop lessons that are interesting and fun for each one.”
Bowley teaches four classes of language arts and one Georgia history class, Bowley said.
“I’m really passionate about what I do,” Bowley said. “It’s my calling, it’s what I do, it’s what I was meant to do and it’s what I love doing. You can have 100 great strategies, but what I think matters to kids is, are you passionate about what you do?”
From volunteering to teach Sunday school classes at church to gaining inspiration from her mother, who was also a teacher, Bowley said she learned her love for “designing lessons.”
“I think I’ve always naturally gravitated toward teaching and it hasn’t always come in the form of being in front of a class. My heart is to help people find their strengths, and to guide and to mentor,” Bowley said. “It’s like an art form … I realized, ‘Man I love doing this.’”
One of the most influential assignments that Bowley gave her writing students was last year, she said. Bowley wore a masquerade mask and talked about personal experiences with not being herself, then had them write about the importance of taking off their own masks to “let people see the real you.”
“Last year was a big deal because I spent several hours after school transforming my room into like a late-1800’s Parisian opera house. With white lights everywhere and battery operated candles,” Bowley said. “We went into, ‘What are masks that you wear?’ They each got a mask … and they decorated it to reflect what it is that they try to show people.”
Bowman said explaining her own personal masks allowed students to feel comfortable with writing about their own identity.
“Honestly, I think the thing that reaches them, is that I try to do what I ask them (to do),” Bowley said. “If I ask them to write, I try to write with them.”
Bowley engages students with interesting and meaningful projects and fosters trust through honesty and fairness.
Wiseman explained Bowley’s “Feather Circle,” a poem activity that gives students an opportunity to discuss their own challenges, and allows others to offer encouragement.
In Bowley’s application for Teacher of the Year, she explained how students are given notecards to write encouraging words and “I’ve been there” notes for their peers after listening to the poems.
“I will never forget those moments when I see the kid who was obviously nervous to read being showered with notes of encouragement from students who normally don’t notice his existence,” Bowley wrote in the application.
A few years ago, Bowley said she asked students what they should be able to expect from her, and had them write down rules.
“I had them write, ‘If you could tell a teacher in the future what you wish they would do and what you expect from them, what would that be?’ They produced the most interesting responses,” Bowley said. “I took what my students gave … one of them is, ‘I won’t bring my bad mood from the class period before to your period.’”
She chose the most commonly written responses and created a list of rules that she would follow in the classroom.
“I want them to understand that their opinion has value. … They have valuable things to say,” Bowley said.
Now, before she tells students what she expects of them, she tells the students what they can expect from her.
Petruzielo said Bowley gains her students’ respect by showing them respect.
“She calls herself a ‘professional noticer.’… She’s looking for the kids’ talents, what makes them tick,” Petruzielo said of Bowley. “I love that language. I think it’s very powerful. It’s also very powerful that she not only tells them the rules for them in her classroom, she tells them her rules for herself. It shows that not only does she expect the kids to behave with respect, she will show them respect, too.”
Wiseman said Bowley didn’t win “a popularity contest.”
“She truly deserves this,” Wiseman said. “
Bowley grew up in Cherokee County, attended Etowah High School and currently lives in Woodstock with her husband Paul.
Bowley said that her husband was excited she was selected as Cherokee’s Teacher of the Year.
“He said ‘We’re going to celebrate,’” Bowley said of her husband’s reaction to her award. “He said, ‘Forget the spaghetti you had planned, we’re going to eat somewhere else.’”