This school year, we expanded our programming into Danville, Virginia – a small city on the VA-NC border that has turned its focus toward improving reading proficiency for students in grades K-3rd. This goal shined a light on the educational inequities within the region, including the need for high impact literacy-focused partners in the city’s most underserved communities.
Meredith Collie, a first-year Literacy Lab tutor, joined the newly established Danville cohort to gain experience in the field of education and to lend a hand to her hometown. She recently sat down with Principal Bowman of G.L.H. Johnson Elementary to discuss his work and the partnership with The Literacy Lab.
Meredith: What is your favorite children’s book?
Principal Bowman: Comic books. When I was a kid, I found old comic books at my cousin’s house, and that was actually how I learned to read.
What is one of your personal core values?
You have to treat everybody like they’re the “king of the world.” Blue collar, white collar, and everybody in between. No matter what they come from, or what they look like, you have to treat people good. It doesn’t cost anything to be kind.
What influenced you to become a school principal?
My mother is an educator, so I think I’m just following in her footsteps. I started as a remediation specialist, and then I taught third grade. I was Teacher of the Year twice, and that first allowed me an assistant principal position, and now I’m a principal. I’ve always wanted to lead.
What goals do you have for the school that you would like to see achieved?
Absolutely full state accreditation. The blue ribbon. I really want to reimagine Johnson.
How is the Literacy Lab helping to achieve those goals?
Definitely helping to build those foundational skills with kindergarten through third grade. It’s absolutely about helping students learn to read so that they can read to learn.
Have you seen a noticeable impact since the implementation of our program?
Yes. I haven’t been here long, and there have been a lot of moving parts since I’ve been here. But I love hearing the success stories of our students. You guys do a lot, and when I hear that students graduate from your program, I get so excited. They’re never meant to stay with you, they need to graduate. I also like to see the relationships you build with your students and that they get to work 1-1 with someone everyday.
In your opinion, what is one big positive of The Literacy Lab and DPS partnership?
It’s such a cohesive partnership, and the work is seamless. Everybody is on the same wavelength. We have really identified the need, and implemented a good program, and we worked together to achieve that. We really just let you be you, and I’m not here to micromanage you – you have my trust and you’re doing a good job. I appreciate our partnership, as well as the partnership you all have with the teachers.