Attending Obama address is teaching point for Durham educator
Posted January 20, 2012
Durham, N.C. — For a former history teacher, attending a presidential State of the Union address is the opportunity of a lifetime.
That opportunity comes next Tuesday for Jason Jowers, an assistant principal at Hillside High School in Durham. First District Congressman G.K. Butterfield invited him to be his guest in the gallery for President Barack Obama's speech on Capitol Hill.
Jowers said Friday that he was stunned when Butterfield's office extended the invitation a few weeks ago. "How does he know who I am, and why did he choose me out of everybody?" he said.
Butterfield said he was impressed with Jowers' work, which included being named 2011 Teacher of the Year in Durham Public Schools.
“President Obama has made education a top priority of his administration. Mr. Jowers, and educators like him, represent an integral piece of the plan to transform America’s education system into one of the best in the world,” Butterfield said in a statement.
Jowers, 26, taught at Southern High School for four years before moving to Hillside High last fall.
"I just wanted to be a good teacher. That's all. I just wanted to be a good teacher," he said, adding that he always felt his best lesson is his own life.
"A lot of the kids that I work with come from a similar type of environment that I grew up in," he said. "I watched a lot of my friends who didn't make the right decisions, I guess, that I did, and in some cases, I just got lucky."
The power of decisions is something Jowers stresses daily at Hillside High, a school that a judge once threatened to shut down for poor student performance.
"Mr. Jowers is just, like, a good role model for us, and we look up to him a lot," freshman Dalephine Coffin said. "You can look up to him and know that, like, he tried, and this is what you get sometimes for your rewards in life."
Jowers said he plans to bring his experience in Washington, D.C., back to classrooms at Hillside High.
"I taught about the State of the Union. I taught about Congress and making laws and things of that nature, and so, it's right down my alley," he said.
Students said they've already learned something.
"Basically, you can do anything if you just try," freshman Ciara Castillo said.