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Teaching an honor for JCHS' STAR Mr. Bowles

Former Panther student now an aspiring mathematics instructor, mentor

As you enter room 5212 inside of Jackson County High School, you’ll notice mathematical equations written in dry erase marker upon the walls and desks of Steven Bowles’ classroom, which has become a sort of a sanctuary for his students.

Seventeen years of teaching at JCHS, seven STAR Teacher Awards, and Two Teacher of the Year awards later, Bowles continues to put his students' needs to the forefront of his priorities. 

Each year the STAR Student selects the most influential teacher in their life. Recently, Kellen Salom, a senior at JCHS, nominated Bowles for STAR Teacher for the academic year of 2022-23. 

"Mr. Bowles is one of if not the most supportive, diligent, thoughtful, and enjoyable teachers I've ever had the luck of having. He is always up to help anyone, whether it be in their academic or personal lives. In general, Mr. Bowles is an outstanding teacher and human being," said Salom.

“That's my favorite award. Student awards are the biggest deal. It's confirmation. It reassures me that I'm doing the right thing. For students to come out and publicly say that this teacher means so much to me. This teacher helped me get where I feel like I'm supposed to be,” said Bowles.

“It is an incredible award and an incredible feeling when a student tells you that they've just picked you for STAR teacher or Rotary.” 

Bowles himself was once a student at JCHS. He recalls the struggles of senior year. His inspiration of teaching comes from his former educators that showed him that there was a greater possibility for him.

During senior year, Bowles was top ten of his class but he was not aware that college was a possibility for him, until his counselor sat him down and asked why he had not taken the SAT examination, nor applied for college. Bowles told his counselor that he did not know where to begin, so they started with signing him up to take the SAT. 

After blowing the SAT out of the water, Bowles applied for University of Georgia in Athens. He was the first of his immediate family to attend college. Education is a virtue for Bowles and he is appreciative of those who inspired him along the way.

“When reflecting on the things that made a difference for me, that is what I keep inside of my classroom. My high school social studies teacher would tell stories that were elaborate and exaggerated to keep us students engaged. My math teacher would be determined to answer any questions a student had,” said Bowles.

“It is those qualities that I try to apply inside my classroom. Most importantly, I connect with my students. I listen to what they need in order to help them out in every aspect that I can. If a student cannot afford to take an AP exam, I will find a way to make it happen for them.”

In 2005, Bowles received his Bachelor's degree from UGA. He  received his Masters from Troy University in 2011, and his Specialist Degree in 2013 from Piedmont University.

 "I've had the privilege of working closely with Mr. Bowles over the course of the last five years. It is not often that you find a professional like Mr. Bowles. He is an exemplary instructional leader that possesses those intangible qualities that elevate an educator to the level of a master teacher," said Melissa Gillspie, who was recently named the principal of JCHS beginning this Summer.

"He is an excited practioner and his excitement transcends to his students. Mr. Bowles's passion for education permeates everything he does and greatly impacts all around him. He inspires and motivates his students, colleagues, and Panther nation daily. Mr. Bowles is one of those rare educators that you will remember for a lifetime."

Bowles has continued to educate at JCHS since 2005. It was his way to return home. August will mark eighteen years of teaching students from the same place that he began. The funny part about his story is that when he was finishing up his last year of college, he knew he wanted to work at JCHS. Initially he was applying for a position that did not exist yet. 

“Somehow I came out on the other side with the job. It has been a ride, seeing it all come full circle. Now my daughter and nieces will be graduating from here this year and my son will be a freshman next year,” said Bowles.

Jackson County is home for Bowles and his family. In fact, his wife also attended JCHS when she was in high school. 

Outside of the classroom, Bowles continues to give back to the community and strengthen his relationships with those around him. Every spring and fall, Bowles works in concessions at West Jackson Ballpark during recreational games. 

Four days a week, he grills hot dogs and hamburgers after school hours. By working in the concessions he is able to see his students after school and possibly his future students. 

Bowles also owns Sign Gypsies in Jefferson. For the past three years he orders and places signs within the community for birthdays, graduations, retirements and more. He has even had the honor of putting up signs for his very own seniors over the years.

“We get requests and we put them up in the middle of the night. When a five year old girl wakes up the next day with a pink and silver sign with unicorns and mermaids, super stoked and happy about it,” said Bowles

Knowing that he can help bring joy to the community is a large part of why he does it. 

“Students have told me that they will not miss my class. When I asked why, they told me that they do not want to disappoint me. They are aware that I am always here for them and I try my hardest to make class interesting for them,” said Bowles.

No matter if he is inside the classroom or at the ball fields, Bowles is a STAR to those within Jackson County. It is no wonder why students look up to him like they do. Students look forward to math class each day because of their teacher.