Lincoln High School teacher Nathan Gibbs-Bowling is one of four finalists for 2016 National Teacher of the Year.
Gibbs-Bowling, who was named state Teacher of the Year in September, teaches advanced placement (AP) government and AP human geography at the Tacoma school.
In 2014, he was named a Milken Educator, a national award that came with $25,000 from the Milken Family Foundation.
“We’re proud to have Nate representing Washington at the national level. He has high standards for himself, his colleagues and his students,” state Superintendent Randy Dorn said in a news release. “He represents what works in schools and classrooms. He listens more than he talks. He cares about his students and their experiences.”
In Gibbs-Bowling’s classroom, students re-argue famous Supreme Court cases, research experiences of marginalized populations and investigate the storied history of their own home town. On Thursday, the guest speaker in his class is U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor.
He listens more than he talks.
State Superintendent Randy Dorn
Colleague Jen Zamira describes Gibbs-Bowling as a cross between cheerleader, drill sergeant and college professor. “He’s got such a heart,” she said in a news release. “While the kids know he’s tough on them, they also know he’ll take a bullet for them.”
Students say that Gibbs-Bowling is strict, but caring.
“Even if I aced the test, he always saw room where I could grow,” student Trang Tran wrote as part of Gibbs-Bowling’s nomination for Teacher of the Year. “He continuously pushed me to my limits, never allowing me to settle with what was enough.”
Gibbs-Bowling, a mentor for the College Success Foundation, recently helped organize a fall alumni support tour to visit Lincoln graduates who are in college. He is a founding member of Teachers United, created in 2011 by teachers in Washington state. The group advocates for equity for students, professional excellence for teachers and for giving teachers a voice in policy decisions.
“Nathan Gibbs-Bowling is not only a remarkable teacher, he also makes those around him better and improves the quality of the entire school,” said Pat Erwin, Lincoln High School principal.
Even if I aced the test, he always saw room where I could grow.
Student Trang Tran
In an interview with the News Tribune in December, Gibbs-Bowling said “There shouldn’t be awards for this (teaching). All I want to do is change lives.”
Other finalists for National Teacher of the Year include a high school history teacher from Connecticut, a high school social studies teacher from California, and a high school algebra teacher from Oklahoma.
The National Teacher of the Year program is run by the Council of Chief State School Officers and presented by Voya Financial.
National finalists travel to Washington, D.C., in February to interview with the National Teacher of the Year selection committee. President Barack Obama will announce the winner during a ceremony at the White House in April.