Teaching As A Creative Art

April 18, 2014

When U.S. Senator Patty Murray appeared before Lincoln High School in Tacoma Tuesday to announce the winner of the Milken Education Award, she said the winner “knew teaching was a creative art,” and that he “turns his classroom into a courtroom where students debate Supreme Court cases.”

That one reference was enough to kick off a cheer, because the entire school knew the award was going to Nathan Gibbs-Bowling. Gibbs-Bowling, who earned an undergraduate degree at Evergreen in 2004 and a masters in teaching in 2006, has been teaching government and geography at Lincoln for five years.

The $25,000 award, which is known by some as “the Oscar of teaching,” goes out annually to about 40 recipients and is considered one of the country’s highest honors in education. Gibbs-Bowling is the only recipient this year in Washington State.

Gibbs-Bowling is known for his high expectations and pushing his students to new heights. In a recent video posted on the Tacoma school district website, Gibbs-Bowling talked about what fuels his passion for teaching.

“I get to leave my intellectual and cognitive fingerprints on a hundred kids a year, who will be change agents in the community,” Gibbs-Bowling said. “Poverty and education is a life or death matter. If I am getting kids prepared and competitive for college, then I’m setting them on a trajectory for a better, happier, healthier, longer life.”

Gibbs-Bowling grew up in the Lincoln High School neighborhood in Tacoma and sees his career there as an opportunity to give back to his community.

“I think Nate is an outstanding example of the teaching strategies and professional disposition we impress upon our teachers at the Masters in Teaching program,” said Sherry Walton, director of the MiT program and a faculty member at Evergreen. “Part of the core of our philosophy is working with kids who are right in front of you, because those are the people who will shape the future. We seek to help develop teachers like Nate, who can work with any set of kids and engage in them in their learning and in their own lives. We’re very proud of him.”

The Milken Educator Award was founded in 1985 by the Milken Family Foundation.