Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
FAIRFIELD — Brynna and Blair Bowman waited patiently at the entrance of the Fairfield High School gymnasium.
They, their grandparents and their great aunt and great uncle were all there to surprise their mom, Heidi Bowman, a Pence Elementary School second-grade teacher who was named the district’s Teacher of the Year Wednesday during the district’s teacher appreciation ceremony.
When school Superintendent Laurie Noll announced Bowman as the winner, Brynna and Blair were the first on stage to give their mom a hug. Both girls had traveled from Simpson College in Indianola earlier that day, where Brynna just graduated and where Blair just completed her sophomore year.
Noll had informed the girls a little more than a week ahead of time that their mom would receive this honor, but they had to keep it a secret. The secret almost got out when a family member sent a message in a group text that included Heidi about some “exciting news” happening Wednesday, but luckily they were able to keep the cat in the bag by claiming the exciting news was about Heidi’s upcoming birthday.
Brynna and Blair said they were thrilled to see their mom recognized for her hard work as a teacher.
“She is very deserving of this award,” Brynna said. “She is a great mom, challenging us, supporting us and taking pictures at all our events.”
Heidi’s mother, Portia Andre, described her daughter as “wonderful and kind,” and someone who always puts others above herself.
“She goes above and beyond for the kids at school,” Portia said. “And her four wonderful kids love her very much.”
Heidi’s other two children are Bailey and Brittan. All four are Fairfield High School graduates.
Portia said this past year has been taxing on Heidi and the other teachers because of the extra work they have had to do to accommodate both in-person and virtual classrooms.
“She would put in 15 hours over the weekends learning the material,” Portia said.
Heidi’s father, Bruce Andre, said he was overjoyed to see his daughter honored. He and Portia taught in the Cardinal School District for more than 30 years, and they said Heidi wanted to follow in their footsteps as a teacher ever since she was young.
“I was raised with positive role models in the field of education,” Heidi said. “I knew I wanted to be a teacher all my life because I love being able to feel that I make a difference in someone’s life.”
Heidi said one of her favorite parts of the job is watching her students grow through the year, feeling comfortable making mistakes while knowing they can try again.
“I daily point out the many mistakes that I make throughout the day,” she said. “My students often tease me by saying, ‘Ms. Bowman, you made a mistake, but it’s OK.’ They giggle when I tell them ‘Yes, and it is only 8:30 a.m., and it is my 125th mistake already today.’”
This is Heidi’s 29th year of teaching. She taught second grade for one year in Terrell, Texas, before switching to special education for the remaining six years she lived in Texas. The Fairfield native returned to her hometown in 1999, teaching special education at Lincoln Elementary School. When Lincoln Elementary closed in 2011, she asked the district to go back into the general education classroom and was assigned to teach second grade at Pence Elementary School, where she’s been ever since.
During her speech announcing the Teacher of the Year, Noll described the teacher without identifying them by name until the end.
“The 2021 recipient has a passion for learning and a passion for students to do their very best work and challenges the students to challenge themselves,” Noll said. “This teacher’s nomination states that a day cannot go by without this teacher saying something positive about a student or colleague.”
Heidi said she did not realize Noll was talking about her until the last sentence when she mentioned photography.
“It was stated that nothing shakes this elementary teacher as she is ready for each day,” Noll said. “You can find her in her Pence classroom or behind the camera at many extracurricular events at the high school or helping on the cheer and dance squad.”
Heidi said her family did well keeping the secret of her award. Her aunt and uncle, Virginia and Rex Andre, drove from Minneapolis to Indianola Saturday for Brynna’s graduation, then stayed in Fairfield for a few days after that. Heidi said it’s common for them to spend a few days here when they visit, so she did not suspect anything.
“I am truly honored to have been chosen among some of the finest educators in the Fairfield Community School District,” Heidi said. “I often tell my students that I learn so many things from them, and they are the reasons that make me want to strive to do the best job I can.”