Nate Fowler is the new interim superintendent for Lowell Area Schools, serving in this capacity for the 2020-2021 school year. School News Network sat down with the lifelong educator to get to know him better in this edition of Meet Your Administrators.
What is your education background? I went to Michigan State University and am certified to teach English and history. Then I have a master’s degree in educational leadership from Grand Valley State University, and I am currently a student in Grand Valley’s specialist program in educational leadership. But I did not sign up for fall classes this year – I’m taking a pause!
This is my 24th year in education and my 23rd year in Lowell. I taught English and social studies at Lowell High School for eight years, where I also coached football and was the adviser for Model United Nations. I was the assistant principal at Lowell Middle School for eight years, the principal at Bushnell Elementary School for two years, and then the district curriculum director for four years.
What jobs have you held outside education? I have lots of experience in the hospitality industry. I’m originally from northern Michigan, so I used to go to Mackinac Island 14 times a day when I was a deckhand on the ferry boats. I’ve also been a gardener on Mackinac Island, and worked in several restaurants (usually in the kitchen) during college.
What drew you to working in education? It’s a family thing for both my wife and me. My dad was my eighth-grade English teacher; my mom was my preschool teacher. And her mother was a teacher. When I got to school I didn’t necessarily think that I wanted to be a teacher, but when I got into my classes and coursework, I felt that pull. I always enjoyed working with kids; it was fun for me to babysit and to coach youth sports when I was in high school. Once I got to college I knew that was where I belonged. And my wife comes from a family of educators as well.
What would you like to share about your family? My wife, Kim, teaches kindergarten in Forest Hills – this is her 23rd year in kindergarten. We have a daughter, Marlie, who is a sophomore elementary education major at Northern Michigan University. Our twin sons, Sawyer and Jackson, are juniors at Lowell High School and they both run track and cross country. Jackson is taking all his classes at the high school while Sawyer is in the sustainable agriculture program at Kent Career Tech Center – he’s said that he doesn’t want to work inside. And our son Paul is in eighth grade at Lowell Middle School.
How do your kids feel about you becoming their superintendent? I already warned them about snow day conversations – they want to know when we’re going to call those already. Joking aside, everyone’s been very supportive. It’s nice having older kids who are able to drive. During the spring shutdown my wife and I joked that it was great to have older kids because they help take care of us, too. In addition to doing their school online they would make dinner for us, and so that help was great.
What are some of your hobbies or interests? My wife and I are both from northern Michigan, so we love to spend time up north. Our family likes to camp, likes to visit national parks — we just like to spend time outdoors. I want to have a great garden someday. Right now I have a garden, but I’d like it to be a great garden. I like to run and go on walks with my wife. We live in a great area for recreation, so we just try to get outside as much as we can.
What kind of kid were you in school? In elementary I think I was very studious. I loved to read books, I liked my teachers and wanted to try to please them. When I was in high school, I was very involved. I went to a small high school — I graduated with 52 kids — but I still had opportunities to be involved with sports, band, Quiz Bowl and even some theatrical productions. So I had a lot of different experiences with different groups of kids in high school and really appreciated the opportunities that involvement gave me.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from students? Students help me to laugh every day. Whether it’s in the classroom or in the office, students always remind me to laugh. Also, having been here long enough, the other thing I’ve learned is that those personal connections and relationships that you build with students pay dividends down the road. It’s really been great to see students that I knew as kids do great things and become community leaders, become parents, become business owners, both inside our community and elsewhere. It’s really rewarding to see that come full circle.
If you could go back in time, which grade would you choose to return to, and why? I would choose my senior year of high school because I have very fond memories of the last three months of that year when all of the cliques sort of dissolved. When we saw that school was going to be over soon we all just kind of enjoyed each other’s company and liked hanging out more. So I’d like to go back to senior year and start those last three months sooner, in terms of just having fun with all of my classmates and the people surrounding me in school.
What is the #1 potential positive change for schools that you hope comes out of this pandemic? I think the disruption is getting us to recognize and appreciate the importance of community. Having that ripped away from us in March (when schools were shut down) and trying to maintain community virtually was a huge challenge, but it showed us how important that is to learning. Kids are going to reach their greatest potential when they feel like they’re a part of something. So I hope that we can continue to emphasize community in order to make kids feel like they do belong to something that is special and important here at Lowell Area Schools.
If you were being introduced in front of an assembly, what would you choose for your introduction song? I like “Dear Prudence” by The Beatles. I don’t hear it often, but when I do, it reminds me to appreciate the beauty in our world and the people who live in it.