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Long-Time Educator Alice Rowe to Join BHS Hall of Fame Saturday

By Jeff Toquinto on September 06, 2012 via Connect-Bridgeport.com

A foundation isn’t necessarily made of bricks and mortar. It’s not necessarily marked where it began by a cornerstone. In the education world, a foundation is of much more substance; and often it can’t be measured or seen. It can, however, be noticed in what is built off of it.
At Bridgeport High School, a foundation that was put in place 44 years ago hasn’t stopped growing. And because of that, neither has the educational growth of the thousands of students that have walked through the door of Alice Rowe's classroom.
 
To say that Alice Rowe is part of Bridgeport High School may be selling her importance to the school short. In many ways, Alice Rowe is Bridgeport High School. Because of that, this Saturday in the school’s cafeteria, Alice Rowe will be inducted into the Class of 2012 Bridgeport High School Hall of Fame.
“I’m just very humbled by it all,” Rowe said of the honor.
 
Those who know Rowe know that while she’s low key about recognition, she’s high octane about her students. The impact she’s made with them resonates not only with those she has in the classroom today, but with generations of youngsters who have benefited from their time as part of her award-winning journalism program.
 
“I don’t think that there are enough accolades that could be given to Alice Rowe,” said former journalism student and 1987 Bridgeport graduate Alecia Sirk. “She has touched the lives of so many journalism students, yearbook kids, football players and those who felt left out like I did.
 
“She gave me a place,” Sirk said, “and a purpose.”
 
That purpose was to make students achieve at the very highest levels. Few times, have those students disappointed. Dozens, if not hundreds, of former students went on to become involved in journalism and thousands, it’s safe to say, went on to have successful careers using the skills taught in Rowe’s class.
 
“Mrs. Rowe would never accept anything less than my best. She’d sometimes tell you ‘you can do better’ even if she knew you worked hard on something. I don’t know how often that happens anymore. I think too often students are told ‘you did your best’ and that’s the end of it,” Sirk said. “She sets the bar high. She knows what you’re capable of and expects you to achieve that.”
 
What’s really amazing is that the standard set by Rowe has been in place for more than four decades now. Although she spent two years teaching in Pennsylvania prior to coming to Bridgeport to teach 43 years ago (this is the start of her 44thyear) and is a graduate of Morgantown High School, there is no denying that Rowe is Bridgeport through every part of her being. In fact, her passion for her job, her students and the school is arguably unmatched at best and is likely only equaled at worst.
 
“I can’t imagine what it would be like without this. It’s just me,” she said. “I guess I’ve been here so long that I can’t envision doing anything other than what I’m doing.”
 
What also sets her apart is that while many long-term educators openly admit the wave of technology has led them to retirement, Rowe has embraced it. And considering her journalism, yearbook and photography classes always use the latest in technology, she either had to adapt or be swallowed by it.
 
“The technology is the biggest change, but by the same token I can’t offer them cutting edge stuff if I don’t embrace the cutting edge technology myself,” she said.
 
Because of that many of Rowe’s students that progress into the college level journalism fields often have an advantage. Count Sirk in that group that felt she was prepared for the next step in her educational process.
 
“I walked into Bethany College expecting to be completely challenged,” said Sirk, who graduated in the journalism field from Bethany. “While it wasn’t all easy, I was completely prepared for what was thrown at me, and that’s a credit to Mrs. Rowe.
 
“She prepared you by the way she went about things. Things were done very creatively and while the end product was important, it wasn’t just about the end product. It was about how you got there,” she continued. “You could do whatever you wanted creatively. All you had to do was to be able to justify it.”
 
Rowe said she takes great pleasure in seeing her students have a leg up on others if they opt to go into journalism in college. She, however, said she feels strongly for all her students no matter where they opt to head in their lives.
 
“It’s rewarding to see the kids pick up knowledge here and go to other places, particularly out of state, and have a foot up on some of the others students,” Rowe, a graduate of West Virginia University, said. “You know sometimes that those involved in higher education wouldn’t think that a West Virginia kid would have that background. I try to make sure they do.”
 
Rowe’s background was partially shaped on the educational front by her mentor and fellow educator, Mary A. Reppert, affectionately known as “Mema” by her students. Reppert’s love for her students and the BHS football program was well known and it’s something Rowe has also taken to heart. However, it’s another program of Reppert’s that Rowe thinks most fondly of when recalling her late friend. The annual Shop for Tots program, where Bridgeport seniors are paired with children of need in the community for a one-day shopping spree is among her most joyous days each year.
 
“The program has been going on for more than 40 years and I worked with her on it and inherited it from her when she passed away,” Rowe said. “She always worried about those who did without and she created something so wonderful for those who struggle and for our students.
“It’s the most rewarding thing. Students that took part in that program or the senior play will tell you that one of those two things the best part of their senior year,” Rowe continued. “The Shop for Tots is a different event, but it’s a part I wouldn't change for anything.”
 
Those that had Rowe as a teacher likely wouldn’t change anything either.
 
“She made me feel included in high school. She made me feel like I could do anything,” Sirk said. “I wanted to be part of that program she was involved in and was there so much I think my mother was jealous. Today, I’m so glad to have her as a friend.”
 
Rowe said the feeling between her and her current and past students is mutual.
 
“That’s one of the best parts of my life. I started teaching these kids as students and they end up becoming cherished friends,” Rowe said.
 
Rowe is married to David Rowe. She has been multiple time winner of the Harrison County Teacher of the Year award, as well as being a finalist for the State Teacher of the Year among dozens of other honors too numerous to mention here.
 
Editor's Note: Alice Rowe is shown going through the 43rd yearbook - the Ki-Cu-Wa - that she has directed while at Bridgeport High School. Photo by Ben Queen of www.benqueenphotography.com.
 
Click HERE to read story on honoree Wayne Jamison.


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