When students begins their final year of high school they are left to reflect on school-years past, the classrooms they once sat in and the teachers who once taught them. It is 12th chapter in a series some are eager to complete, while others take pause and reflect on the role of the protagonist, the hero in their educational journey – for many, that’s Mr. Rowe.
Aaron Rowe, an educator at Langley Secondary School (LSS), was selected as a final honouree for this Langley Advance Times special edition, Heroes in Education: Above & Beyond, after receiving more than one nomination from his students, who say he has created a safe space for them at school. They want to show how much they appreciate the extra mile he goes in trying to make learning fun.
“He was the first person that came to mind for sure, no one else was even a possibility,” said LSS Grade 12 student Natalie Hagyard when asked about nominating the English teacher for the honour.
Similarly, Alexa Adams, also in Grade 12 at LSS, had reflected on Rowe’s impact on her life for a grad assignment and wanted to put her words to further use.
The 17-year-old said Rowe has influenced her to pursue a career in teaching.
Rowe, 44, was touched after he learned his students had nominated him for the recognition and heard the impact he has had on the youth.
“It’s a very, very heartwarming,” he said. “I get a little choked up thinking about it, because I mean – I just love seeing kids succeed, and seeing what they’re capable of creatively and just what they can achieve. It’s fun to be a part of their journey.”
Fun and creative are words Natalie, 17, used to describe her educational experience with Rowe.
“He makes school a place that I want to go, and I look forward to spending time in his classroom, and always having a place to go,” she said. “He makes school feel a lot more like home rather than a place I have to go, its a place I want to go and I want to spend time there.”
Natalie and Alexa both first met Rowe while he was teaching at H.D. Stafford Middle School. They said they’re thankful he moved up along with the students to the secondary school when the teaching position became available.
“[The] most important thing is knowing that someone genuinely is very interested in all their students and cares about how they’re doing, and their life outside of school as well as in school,” Natalie said about what makes Rowe an education hero.
Natalie also appreciates that Rowe’s classroom door is always open for the students.
“He’s known as someone you can always go to and he’s always someone you can ask for help… whether he’s your teacher or not your teacher,” she said.
These attributes were also echoed by Alexa.
“Everyone knows who Mr. Rowe is at our school, you don’t have to be in any of his classes,” she said.
Rowe’s classroom is known as a gathering place for the “Dream Team” at lunch time, a place his students can eat their lunch, spend time together catching-up about life, and even – occasionally – breaking out into song.
Rowe made sure that wasn’t interrupted by the COVID-19 shutdown earlier in the school-year.
“During quarantine he made a group chat for out lunch class, so we got to go on video calls with everyone and it felt like some sort of normalcy,” Alexa recalled.
Traditional grad celebrations remain in limbo, but Rowe wasn’t going to let the Grade 12 students leave high school quietly.
“Mr. Rowe stepped up and decided to be our grad council leader,” Alexa said. “So he’s been helping us create ideas and events that are COVID-safe for all the grads.”
In addition to leading grad council, Rowe is notorious for coaching sports at the school, arriving early to open the gym for students and volunteering to photograph school events, the students said.
So how does Rowe find the time to always make himself available?
“I get stretched kind of too much sometimes,” he said. “But I think that’s kind of what I feel like I need to do sometimes, and I don’t regret it.”
Rowe, a Walnut Grove resident, began his post secondary journey at Okanagan University in Kelowna.
He later completed his bachelor degree at the University of Victoria where he also completed his professional development program.
Rowe started teaching when he was 25.
After working as a teacher-on-call for several school districts in the Lower Mainland, he was offered a full-time position at Walnut Grove Secondary in 2001, where he taught for three years.
He later taught at Brookswood Secondary, then H.D. Stafford Middle and now at LSS.
In the few years he has been at LSS, Rowe has already left his mark, said Marcello Moino, school principal.
“I know a lot of the students really appreciate the fact that he’s very down to earth,” Moino noted.
And Rowe has no plans of slowing down yet.
“I’m always interested in tweaking what I’m doing or finding some new interesting way to teach something… and as long as I keep that excitement alive, I’m going to keep doing it,” he shared.
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