Mr. Lowery joined the Park Academy team in 2015 as the Associate Director. Previously the principal at Bridges Middle School, he has hit the ground running at Park Academy. His first challenge: Park Academy started the year with 74 students, the most ever in the school’s history. This meant finding more awesome teachers, coordinating class schedules, adjusting classroom spaces, and leading the staff and students into the new year. Mr. Lowery has a passion for independent schools that offer unique learning experiences for bright students who struggle in traditional settings. His enthusiasm is contagious, and has inspired the staff and students to enter the school year with optimism.
We are excited to introduce Mr. Lowery here through a series of questions regarding his past experiences, his present goals, and his future plans.
Q: What brought you to Park Academy and why have you chosen to work in education, particularly a unique independent school like Park Academy?
I have always been a teacher but it took me awhile to realize it was my calling. My first taste came as a high school outdoor school counselor where I taught 6th graders about “riparian vegetation” and “trubitity”. The adult staff told me I belonged in the teaching field. In hind sight it was one of those seminal experiences that was life changing but I didn’t have the lived experience to see what was right in front of me. Despite this, I went to school for Criminal Justice (a whole other story!) but quickly felt the dissonance of being on the wrong end of the system. I jumped into education and never looked back.
After college, I taught for a few years before serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the small island nation of Kiribati. There, I worked as a teacher and teacher trainer before returning to the states where I began work as a lead teacher for a program serving “at-risk” teens in a credit recovery program. These experiences taught me that there was so much I didn’t know, and that so much of what I thought I knew, was wrong. Our unique lived experiences, strengths, difficulties, and settings all have a dramatic impact on our education journeys. This led me to the field of counseling, where I earned a Master’s degree in clinical and school counseling. This merger of academic, social, and emotional needs would come to define my drive and leadership mindset.
Post Masters I found a home at Gately Academy, which would later become Bridges Middle School, serving as a teacher and counselor for students who learned differently. The passion I have for helping students and the sense of urgency I feel to help students heal and excel, led me to leadership and administration. The independent school community serving students with unique learning needs is small, and during my career I worked alongside former Park Academy director Paula Kinney. I watched the Park Academy program grow and evolve in amazing ways. At the end of the 2014/2015 school year I was approached by Dr. Kinney and asked if I might be interested in opportunities that were emerging at Park and of course…I was! Now a year and a half later, I find myself feeling at home working with an incredible staff with an incredible mission. Right now I can step outside my office and see 74 beautiful reasons that define WHY I am here, WHY this is where I belong and WHY Park Academy is such an incredible place.
Q: Do you want to share a bit about the school program you’re in right now, and your previous degrees/areas of study?
As an educator, it should come as no surprise that I value education. You might say I’m addicted to it! I feel a sense of urgency to do everything we can for these students and to that end, I am now pursuing a Doctorate in Education Leadership at Lewis and Clark College. The program is helping us stay connected to the broader education field and some of the amazing work being done by professionals across the country and world. My incredible wife and family have supported this journey and tell me that this is it…..but we’ll see. Being a student and a teacher is in my blood.
Q: What are you most excited for this year?
There is so many things to be excited for at Park Academy. The need for a program like ours has always been there but the awareness of Park Academy is growing and our capacity to serve students with dyslexia and unique learning needs continues to improve. This year, we are growing our student body, and building upon the previous success of the program.
One exciting development has been our emerging collaboration with the broader dyslexia community. The Blosser Center is a prominent dyslexia-tutoring center serving students and training Orton-Gillingham teachers in the Pacific Northwest. For the first time ever, a number of our teachers are receiving training from this program in route to becoming Associate level Orton-Gillingham teachers. In addition, we are working with The Blosser Center, Decoding Dyslexia, ORBIDA, and Maryhurst University to provide state teacher in-service training on dyslexia here at Park Academy this October. The collaboration has been wonderful for the school, and for students with dyslexia across the Portland Metropolitan area.
Other things to be excited about include our partnership with OMSI and the development of an outdoor school program, collaboration with the Japanese Gardens, and the addition of new staff members including the search for a school counselor and ASPIRE coordinator. We are continuing to refine our high school program and are looking for more experiential opportunities for students including work-studies, internships and duel credit programs with local community colleges. The hard part isn’t finding areas to grow and improving, it’s making sure that we don’t bite off more than we can chew!
Q: Do you have a favorite quote?
“It is more common than you can imagine. You are not alone. And while you will have the rest of your life, you can dart between the raindrops to get where you want to go and it will not hold you back.”
Steven Spielberg – via Friends of Quinn
Steven Spielberg was diagnosed with dyslexia later in his life. As a child of the 80’s I grew up idolizing Spielberg and his movies. I think it is important to learn from the many many fantastic and successful people who have struggled with learning differences. www.friendsofquinn.com is a website created by a young man who lives with a learning difference and attended a school similar to Park Academy. His site is a community hub of support and friendship for teens and adults who are navigating a world that is not always built to meet their needs. The imagery in his statement “you are not alone” is a powerful message that addresses a core value at Park Academy. I would add that not only can you “dart between the raindrops” but sometimes it can be wonderful to spread your arms and find the joy in how they feel and what those raindrops do for the world.
Q: If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
Superpower….I don’t know if it’s really a superpower but I wish I had an eidetic memory (yes, I had to look that up!)…better known as the ability to remember everything I learn and experience perfectly! I am an extremely curious person and take on both academic learning and recreational learning with passion. It’s not uncommon for me to show up at home one day with a unicycle, juggling balls, wood carving material, knitting needles, or a magic kit simply because I was feeling curious. I often get eye rolls when I tell friends and family that I have decided to be a vegetarian for a month or that I have decided to try scuba diving just because I have now placed it on my bucket list. What an interesting and powerful life we could lead if we could retain all of the incredible stories, knowledge and skills that surround us everyday!
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? What kinds of things do you like to do?
A little about me…hmmm I was born in Illinois but grew up in Oregon. My Chicago roots are apparent in my choice of sports teams as I am a passionate Cubs and Bears fan. Finally, I can say I’m a Cubs fan without making some self-deprecating statement about lovable losers! I graduated from Hillsboro High School but went back to Southern Illinois University for my undergraduate before returning home. I met my wife while paddling on a Tsunami dragon boat team and we have two beautiful children. Jackson is nine years old and just started the 4th grade. Our daughter Sophia is seven years old and beginning 2nd grade this year. We have a couple of big rowdy dogs, Roscoe, a golden retriever and Penelope, our rambunctious chocolate Labrador. We have had some amazing adventures together and love to swap stories when folks have a chance.