LHS teacher Fowler paves the road to success

Published 10:00 pm Saturday, September 6, 2014

By Mark Schmerling

When Josh Fowler was a Woodruff High School student, several of his teachers inspired him, no one more than did Gary Robinette. “He wouldn’t accept me doing the minimum,” Fowler recalled. Obviously Robinette saw potential in Fowler.
Fowler, who has wanted to teach since he was a high school student, is now on the faculty of Landrum High School, where he tries to inspire his students to do better in life, in large part by making the best choices.
“He (Robinette) made it clear that there’s more to teaching,” said Fowler. “You help change a life.”
Fowler, in his fifth year on the Landrum faculty, is a Junior Achievement programmer and also teaches government, economics and FLIGHT (Fostering Leadership In Good Habits and Talent) world geography teacher.
All of that means that he prepares high school students to make the best choices for real-life experiences in their lives beyond the classroom, and to understand that other cultures do things differently than do Americans, but other people’s choices of foods and other aspects of their daily lives are no less valid than are ours.
“It’s something I felt knowledgeable about,” Fowler said about his choice of vocation. “It’s something I felt passionate about.” Fowler said economics is about real-world applications. “Everybody has to use it. Nobody gets away from it.” He said many high school students are beginning to experience what it’s like to be in the financial world, transitioning from a life where their parents paid for everything, by relating economics to what affects their daily lives.
An example his class has studied is a bagel business run by the parents of one of the students. Fowler reminds his students, “It’s more than just bagels.” They discuss how one of the owners knows how many bagels to make for each day to minimize waste and to keep late-day customers satisfied.
“They know that somebody has to pay the bills,” he observed. Fowler’s (and other) students have to realize, “Every choice has a consequence.” To best prepare his students, Fowler explains that he doesn’t rely strictly on textbooks. “I like to make sure this is down the hall, out in the community.”
He notes that the end is not simply for students to earn a college degree (Fowler also emphasizes that not all students will be best served by earning a four-year degree), “but to get a job” that is satisfying, pays the bills and allows them to have a lifestyle they enjoy.
Part of Fowler’s curriculum is project design, where students design their own companies to make real-world commercials to advertise their good or services.
Junior Achievement, he explained, is a non-profit organization that shares information on economics, with K-12 programs. Most of the students’ work is non-competitive, but Fowler’s students have competed in the Titan Challenge, where teams of students control a company and make decisions to direct its success. They compete against students in other schools. Data run through a computer helps determine which of these businesses will be the most successful over a given time.
At a recent regional competition in Greenville, one of Fowler’s teams placed first, winning a $3,000 prize (which presented an opportunity to make decisions on handling the very real money). This team went on to place second in a national competition. “I was lucky,” Fowler said modestly. “I had some really, really good students.”
Fowler explained that FLIGHT world geography is a program that builds leadership skills in ninth grade students who have been identified with potential leadership skills. Students learn how to steer their goals in the right direction. Other LHS faculty members are also involved in this program. If a student cannot identify his or her goals, faculty members will try to show available choices.
One thing Fowler lives for is when a student suddenly understands a concept. “I like seeing the light bulb. You see the light bulb go off in their head,” Fowler said. “When they (students) get it, it brings joy to them.”
Fowler said it’s always gratifying when a former student returns to thank him for making a difference and helping him or her make good choices.
Though Fowler is in his fifth year of teaching at Landrum, and had taught for three and one-half years at Woodruff, one of his former students already owns a successful company in the Upstate. Another, who was doubtful of her ability to afford college, is now a junior at the University of Michigan.
FLIGHT World Geography helps students realize how different various cultures are from each other and from ours. They understand, Fowler said, that “It’s okay to be different.” One particular area of comparison, he said, is food. “No matter where you are,” Fowler reminds students, “you have to eat.”
In this country, so many individuals are accustomed to obtaining protein from beef, poultry, fish, pork and other familiar sources; those in other countries sometimes eat things we might consider “gross.” Often, Fowler points out, we take a food item from another country and put our own twist on it. An example is pizza, popular in the U.S., but very unlike what has been traditionally created and served in Italy.
Practical economics came early to Fowler, who grew up in Woodruff. While at college, he had to work full-time to pay many of his expenses as his family could not afford to. “I knew what I wanted to do,” Fowler recalled, “but to meet my goal, I knew I needed to work. That made me like economics even more, because I had to experience it first hand.”
Another way to make Fowler light up is to discuss wrestling. As a former high school wrestler, and in his third year as the Cardinals’ head wrestling coach (He served as assistant coach for two years, as well as assistant wrestling coach at Woodruff), he has warm memories of being on a Woodruff High team that won a state title.
But, now Fowler is at Landrum High School.
“It’s a good school, and I enjoy it,” he said.

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