Yesterday, the New York State Senate's Finance Committee adopted a resolution honoring a remarkable lady, Dora Fowler, who held the title of New York state's oldest teacher until her retirement from Roxbury Central School in February. From the resolution:
Dora Fowler has clearly had an enduring impact on the youth of the Roxbury Central School District, as well as on the community-at large, and accordingly merits recognition and applause for over 60 years of impressive dedication to others
Fowler, a 91-year-old Grand Gorge resident, taught 5th grade, 9th grade, science, English, special needs and writing at RCS from 1950 to 2011.
She also had a lot of fun, according to a February profile in the Mountain Eagle, which described how Fowler engaged in some pretty exciting extracurricular activities in recent years:
Fowler was also active in the school plays and she made one particularly “wild” appearance in 1998.A professional acting group came to the school to do a production of "Peter Pan," and when Fowler saw the apparatus to make Peter fly, she said she wanted to try it.
“She was suspended 15 feet in the air above the stage as Peter Pan,” [Fowler's daugther, Cynthia] Durham laughed.
Fowler’s reputation as a thrill seeker didn’t stop there.
For her 80th birthday, she took a hot air balloon ride in Maine and for her 90th, she went on a hand glider.
In a 2007 article in New York Teacher, the state teacher's union magazine, Fowler told other teachers a few tricks for educational longevity:
- Be a teacher first. New teachers, particularly in high school, often try to be friends with their students, Fowler says. "Be their teacher first. They need someone to look up to."
- Meet the parents. When she was new, Fowler traveled around Roxbury, getting to know the community and parents of her incoming students, some of whom are now grandparents to her newest students. Now, more than ever, she says, parents need to be involved.
- You can't reach everyone. Fowler eventually came to realize that no matter how hard you try, you won't always reach every student. Take comfort, she says, in the many you do help.
- Don't fear failure. "Get over it" might be Fowler's mantra. Try different approaches in the classroom, she says, understanding that not everything you try will work. "Learn from your mistakes and get over it," she advises.
- Get over it (Part 2). No matter how much you prepare, not every lesson will click, Fowler warns. "Kids understand. This won't hurt them. Realize what you did wrong, then get over it."
- Mind your appearance. "It's old-fashioned, but I believe teachers should present themselves as professionally as they can," says Fowler, an impeccable dresser. "Come to school dressed like a student and it seems to me you don't get as much respect."
- Learn to laugh. "You need a sense of humor if you're going to last as a teacher," says Fowler, who believes her good health is due at least in part to a sense of humor. "Learn to laugh at yourself," she advises — "and then get over it."