Monday Feb 13 2012
Rolling Hills Middle School principal has also traveled world
By: Menka Belgal, Telegraph Correspondent
Debbie Bowers has been the principal of Rolling Hills Middle School for the past four years and served as the assistant principal for three and a half years before that. What were you doing earlier? I’ve actually been in education for 20 years now. My first “real” job was as a high school English teacher fresh out of college. I taught at a very high achieving high school in little Rhode Island for seven years before moving to Sao Paulo, Brazil, where I taught a few more years in an American International school. I was only supposed to be there for two years, but ended up living there for five years and working as principal at the same school. What lead you to a career in education? That’s a good question. I hadn’t planned on this career path, but as I look back on my own schooling, it’s not too big of a surprise. I was a very involved high school and college student — yearbook editor, student council president, journalism editor, and more. I loved being at school. In college, though, I majored in English and thought I would go on to study law or journalism. My professor suggested I minor in Education, just in case. Once I started student teaching my junior year, all other plans were thrown out the window. I had found my passion, a true vocation for me, and I’ve loved it since day one. Has anything happened to you that has changed your perspective on life? It would have to be my move to Brazil. I grew up in Rhode Island, the youngest of four girls in an Italian family. When I told my parents I was moving to Brazil, I remember very clearly how crazy they thought I was. I couldn’t even say “hello” in Portuguese. My father said, “Your mother and I worked so hard to make all of you girls independent, and the problem is, we succeeded.” I’ve had some very interesting travels and met the most interesting, kind people. How different was life in Brazil? Muito diferente. It is absolutely a culture of welcoming warmth. They definitely embrace the idea of “work to live, not live to work”. They are laid back, yet not lazy. They just have their priorities in order. I loved watching the kids, even my high school students, kiss their parents goodbye as they were dropped off at school. Family is first and foremost — period. Also, you can’t get stressed there. It was a huge adjustment for me not to be able to plan everything, to be in control of it all. I remember exactly when “my heart became Brazilian,” as they say. I was principal of the school and had finalized the final exam schedule, including the IB (International Baccalaureate) exams. Then a funny thing happened. The World Cup schedule came out and conflicted with our final exams. Oh well, they’ll have to read about it in the paper, right? No way. I had to change the entire schedule and also arrange to have a breakfast World Cup party so all the kids could watch the game. Meu coraçao e brasileiro agora. What are your some of your favorite places you’ve visited? I love to travel and have had amazing opportunities to do so. I think my top places would be the Amalfi Coast in Italy, Machu Pichu, Moreno Glacier in Patagonia and Rio de Janeiro. What hobbies do you enjoy? I love traveling, reading, spending time with family, and, until the day of the Superbowl, watching football. I bought 1,000 donuts for the entire school — banking on the Patriots winning. Despite their loss, I still wanted to show my support for my team and had the donuts distributed to the classrooms the Monday following the game. Tell us about your family. My husband Rob is an eighth-grade math and science teacher in the Twin Rivers School District, and the best dad and husband in all the world. We have Jake, who is in seventh grade at Rolling Hills, and Isabella, who is a precocious 5-year-old so excited to start kindergarten in August. I can’t forget my first two babies, Sonho (dream) and Luna (moon), my two Golden Doodles. What are you most proud of? Of course I’m proud of my family, and every day with them is a gift. I’m proud of my parents and the work they did raising four girls. I’m even more amazed now that I know what it’s like being a parent. Finally, I’m probably most proud of the risks I’ve taken. I got on a plane to live in a country I had never visited where they spoke a language I never spoke, yet that experience helped shape the person I am today. What is something about you people might be surprised to learn? I’m kind of an open book so there aren’t too many surprises. I hiked up a volcano in Chile and I went rappelling down waterfalls in Brazil. I was also the quarterback of my high school flag football team. That’ll surprise a few.