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Johnston County Public Schools Outstanding First Year Teacher of the Year Sarah Bowman ‘19: ‘My Goal is to be the Teacher I Needed as a Student for My Students’

Sarah Bowman

The last thing a first-year teacher expects, while adjusting to their own classroom, is to have to move to online instruction and remote learning because of a global pandemic. That’s what the coronavirus (COVID-19) has done to education across the globe.

For Sarah Bowman ‘19, a seventh grade science lead learner at Innovation Academy South Campus in Smithfield, North Carolina, the transition hasn’t been that much of a challenge. The NC State College of Education, she says, prepared her for this situation because of its strong focus on technology and digital learning, which helped her adapt to teaching virtually.

“As soon as we found out that we would be teaching virtually, I immediately thought back to what my professors had done. They work diligently to model best practices as they are teaching us that we can then implement into the classroom,” she said. “I felt like, as a first-year teacher, that I almost had a slight advantage due to being fresh out of college where every course has a virtual setting of some sort that I could think on to improve my practice.”

Bowman drew on many ideas from her experiences in the college, including staying consistent with when assignments were posted, consistency in the assignments themselves and utilizing Google forms to gain feedback on how virtual learning was going from a student perspective so that she could modify for the next week.

That adaptability and consistency are just two of the reasons she has become successful in her first year at Innovation Academy. And that hasn’t gone unnoticed. Bowman was named the 2019-20 Johnston County Public Schools Outstanding First Year Teacher of the Year.

“I am incredibly humbled and honored to have been selected out of such a strong group of educators. I could not believe it when I found out that I had been selected and was humbled even more as I learned the story of each nominee that stood with me as a candidate for the award,” she said. “I will do my best to represent Johnston County as their Outstanding First Year Teacher of the Year for 2019-20 and am grateful for the opportunity.”

Bowman grew up around educators as both her parents were teachers. But it wasn’t until she got to NC State that she realized her passion for education. Once she discovered that interest, she knew if she was going to become a teacher, she was going to become a science teacher.

She chose NC State because of its reputation in STEM fields. Bowman was attracted to the science education program when she learned that she could take courses in every science, including physics, earth science, biology, geology and horticulture, to name a few, while also getting courses in educational pedagogy to prepare her for the classroom.

“Science, which became one of my favorite subjects, was one that I often heard peers say they hated. Therefore, I wanted to be sure that I introduced students to all that science is so that they could find one part of science that interested them,” Bowman said.

Her experience in the NC State College of Education was very influential, Bowman says, and she credits all of her professors for her success, but she is especially thankful for Candy Beal, Ed.D., associate professor of middle grades social studies education, who imparted many lessons and words of advice on her and her class of future middle school educators.

“Dr. Beal truly understands the importance of teaching middle grades education and she taught us that every student brings situations into the classroom that we cannot control. Therefore, it is critical to approach each situation with fresh eyes and ears open for understanding because that student is unique in their experience and they must be heard,” she said.

Bowman will never forget when Beal invited her entire class over to her home for dinner to end the year. She provided them with words of advice and encouragement as she sent them off on their “grand adventure” to becoming educators.

“My goal is to be the teacher I needed as a student for my students. I strive to be the teacher that will take time to pause and listen when students are speaking, no matter the topic, because I know how much that meant to me,” she said. “It is also my goal to help students understand that they are capable.”