Tressie Fowler, the library media specialist at Danville High School, has been named the Arkansas State Air Force Association (AFA) 2020 Teacher of the Year and the Lewis Lyle AFA Chapter 2020 Teacher of the Year. Both awards are reserved for honoring teachers for classroom accomplishments and achievements in STEM programs.

Arkansas State AFA President Jerry Reichenbach, Lewis Lyle Chapter President Larry Louden, and State Awards Vice President Ann Reichenbach presented the awards to Fowler in her library this week. 

Principal Kim Foster said of Fowler, “We are blessed to have such a motivating and innovative educator. Her impact on our students is immeasurable.”

Fowler has revamped the library from a space where students primarily checked out books to an innovative, collaborative facility wherein students are also encouraged to explore STEM subjects. Fowler helps students pursue their passions and learn more about their curiosities with library materials, resources, classes, and clubs.

In addition to teaching at Danville High School. Fowler works as an adjunct instructor for Arkansas Tech University where she works in the College of Education. Fowler said, “I love working for ATU. I teach graduate level classes, so I’m able to share resources and technologies with adults, many of whom are teachers, and they pick that up and share it with their students and peers. The result is just beautiful exponential sharing. Everybody wins!”

Fowler is a veteran teacher of 26 years and has always maintained an interest in STEM work. When she first started teaching in third grade, she had students building rockets out of Estes kits, analyzing which size motors they needed for their rockets, comparing launch angles, calculating the altitude their rockets should reach, and hypothesizing their expected landing points.  Five years later when she served as the gifted and talented teacher for the district, she created and directed a team of middle and high school students that designed, built, and programmed a robot using science, technology, engineering, and math concepts to compete in the Arkansas First LEGO League. She made the switch to an elementary classroom, where she taught mathematics for more than a decade. In 2006 Fowler was recognized by the National Science Foundation as one of three state finalists in the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. In 2007 she became a National Board Certified Teacher.

When Mrs. Fowler took over the library in 2014, it primarily served as a place to check out books. She led the transformation of the library into a STEM hub that services students in grades seven through twelve. Though tiny in terms of square footage, the library is big in ideas and resources. Among the materials one can explore in Fowler’s library are aeronautics building sets, force and motion STEAM kits, robots, 3D printers and computers, graphic design programs, programming and coding manipulatives, and more. The library now boasts the title of an awarding winning STEAM center, as the program was honored with the Arkansas Outstanding Media Program Award of 2018.

Fowler said, “Our library fuels inspiration! One of the best parts of the program is when you see students inspired to go out and create on their own. I showed up one morning, and a student was waiting at the library door to show me a hologram projector he had made on his phone, all because something piqued his interest and he took the time to figure it out.” 

Fowler is a well decorated educator. She has four degrees, the most recent an Ed.S. in Educational Leadership. She’s the 2018 AAIM Media Specialist of the Year, the 2017 Making IT Happen Award Winner, and was awarded an all expense paid trip to Facebook headquarters by the company for her work with students.

District superintendent Gregg Grant said, “Mrs. Fowler is one of a kind. I stop by the library as often as I can just to see students smiling, engaged, and eager to show me what they’re learning. This award is well deserved.”

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Photos: A Meccanoid G5 robot sits on a table, as students use chromakey technology to produce stickbot videos and work on an aeronautics engineering set in the background.

Photos: Arkansas State AFA President Jerry Reichenbach presents the organization’s teacher of the year award to Tressie Fowler.