Lynn Stowers set to retire after 50+ years at THS

May 10—THOMASVILLE- Those who have attended Thomasville High School know Lynn Stowers. An English teacher and cornerstone in the Thomasville City Schools System, Stowers is set to retire after 58 years on the job, teaching some families for three generations.

Stowers recently spoke on her lifelong love of teaching and how she has watched the classroom change before her eyes over the past five decades.

Stowers said she always knew she wanted to be a teacher.

"When I was little, I would stand up during recess time and tell stories about the things I read, and the kids seemed to like that," Stowers said. "I remember one time, the teacher asked me to stay in and teach one of the boys in the class how to do long division."

As Stowers entered high school, she set her sights on becoming an English teacher and never wavered from her original pursuit.

Upon graduation, Stowers attended Wesleyan College in Macon, receiving an undergraduate degree. However, her husband-to-be attended Florida State University, so Stowers moved to Florida to find her first teaching job.

"I knew I needed to find a job in Florida because we couldn't afford the out-of-state tuition," she laughed.

Originally applying to some of the schools in Tallahassee, Stowers found that there were far more applicants than teaching jobs. She turned her attention to Monticello, where she secured a job as an English teacher at Jefferson County High School for two years.

When her husband graduated, he began working for Bob Ausley, bringing the newly married couple to Thomasville, where they would go on to raise their children and grandchildren.

"I started in Thomasville in the fall of 1967," she said. "I took a year off somewhere in between now and then to get my Master's, but other than that, I've been working steadily since '67."

As Stowers shared her love for literature with her class, she quickly learned that the multiple interpretations of the text could teach her something new as well.

Last semester, Stowers' students analyzed Wendell Barry's poem "Sycamore."

"I had three students in one of my classes tell me something about that 'Sycamore' that I had never seen before," she said. "I've taught it for years and they saw the sycamore as a Christ figure."

Stowers said she originally thought the idea was preposterous, but as she read their analysis of the nails in the tree and the abuse, she realized the students were teaching the teacher.

Stowers has enjoyed the students broadening her horizons and opening her eyes to something new. While once intimidated by thinking outside the realm of the typical translations of literature, Stowers is happy to embrace it now.

She recalled her senior year at Wesleyan when she was required to take a creative writing class.

"I was not a good writer, so I took it the last semester of my senior year," she said. "In that class, we had to write five short stories and I thought I'm going to fail this class and never be able to teach, which is all I want to do."

The first assignment Stowers said was so bad that she has completely wiped her memory of it.

"Out of complete and utter desperation, when we had to do our second story, I put a blank piece of blank paper in my typewriter and just let my mind wander and came up with a plot," she said. "Instead of criticizing myself while I was writing, I just typed what I felt."

Looking back, Stowers said the class was an amazing experience and allowed her to find her voice through writing creatively.

While Stowers' students don't engage in creative writing, she does try to help them find their voice through the first assignment, which is a personal essay. Students then take essay exams, where students answer prompts that showcase specific details and examples to support their interpretation of a text.

"They have to learn to break down the diction of the author, whether the words are positive or negative toward the subject and what does it show about what the author is thinking," Stowers said. "I always tell my class they don't have to agree with the author, but they have to understand what the author is saying."

However, they don't have to interpret it all on their own.

Stowers said despite her years of teaching, she has always been open to new ideas from her colleagues. One such idea was the suggestion of conference days. During conference days, students can bring Stowers their papers and sit side-by-side while they discuss the paragraph and how it can be fixed or improved upon through an analysis.

"It's made an enormous difference in the writing ability of my students," she said. "They've then written a good paper, which will help them in the papers to come."

As her students leave her classroom for the final time with their "good papers" in hand, Stowers reflects on the changes she's seen, with tolerance of different backgrounds, ideas, and religion being the biggest, but most rewarding change.

She also sees the reliance on technology as one of the largest changes but doesn't see it as a positive change.

"It's just scary to me and I don't know where we are going with it," she said. "I just saw it as my time to leave."

Stowers won't be bored when she leaves, though.

While she may no longer be grading papers, she is excited to spend time with her grandchildren, continue teaching her Sunday school class, and partake in her writing group.