Even as she graduated from City High School in June of 2000, brimming with optimism about her future, Anne Bowles expressed concern about declining standards and support for public education.
“The public schools right now, they frighten me,” the then 17-year-old said in a story in The Grand Rapids Press. “We always have to have a public school system that’s going to give the children what they need.”
She has more than made good on that conviction. After graduating from the University of Michigan, she taught for three years at a Harlem middle school through Teach for America. She then worked for nonprofit agencies supporting best education practices and increased access to college for low-income students.
She is now chief of staff for Achieve, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that works with states to raise academic standards and help more students graduate ready for college and careers. In advocating for students, she can readily connect her work with her experience at Fountain School and City High/Middle.
“I was fortunate to have a strong public education, and know firsthand what that can do for someone and really set them up for success,” said Bowles, who also attended grades 4-6 at St. Andrew’s Catholic School. “And that all students, no matter where they’re from, really should have that opportunity.”
She remembers Fountain as “a community that was caring but also really valued learning,” and that both there and at City, “Curiosity was supported and creativity was supported.
“I felt there were high expectations of me, which I think resulted in my having high expectations of myself, and feeling I could be successful and take on whatever I wanted to take on.”
Today, as demographics shift and academic standards are raised, public school teachers need the time, training and compensation necessary to meet students’ needs and set them up for success, she said.
“Teachers are the greatest resource that we have. We need to keep teachers and their students at the center of any policy change.”