Crothersville math teacher retires after 44 years, but still going to coach


When school resumed from spring break, Carl Bowman was returning from lunch one day when Principal Adam Robinson asked to talk to him.

He was working on the schedule for the 2019-20 school year and wanted to know if he should include Bowman in teaching math.

Bowman was in his 44th year at Crothersville High School and said he had contemplated retirement for a few years.

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“I know I just can’t do it forever. It’s just when was going to be the time?” he said. “If Adam had not have said that to me that day, I don’t know right now if I would have gone down and told them. But when he said that to me, I’m like, ‘Carl, now’s the time. You’ve got to make the decision. What do you think is the best thing for you to do?'”

He has an 18-month-old granddaughter, Ellie, and wants to spend more time with her. And if he kept teaching, he would have to take 18 hours of classes by 2022 to be able to teach dual-credit math.

“If I had to go onto the campus, I’m done. I don’t want to go onto the campus, not at my age. If I could do it online, maybe, but why?” Bowman said.

Soon after that talk with Robinson, Bowman decided it was time to retire.

He met with Superintendent Terry Goodin and filled out and signed the paperwork to make it official.

“That day when I told Dr. Goodin, ‘I think I’ve got to go,’ it was like, ‘Wow! I actually heard those words come out of my mouth,'” Bowman said, smiling.

“It’s really going to be tough knowing that I’m not here, but what was the alternative? Just hang in there and be sporadically Pops to my granddaughter or be able to come and go whenever I feel I need to and still get stuff done that the school needs to have done?'” he said. “It’s like one of those things with a Band-Aid. That day, I just ripped it off, and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, it hurts inside, but it has to be done.'”

It also helped others supported his decision to retire.

“It got to the point where my mind just kept telling me, ‘Do you really want to go up there?'” he said. “There would be days I would leave the class and I’m like, ‘This is why I’m here. I had fun,’ and then other days, I left the class and I’m like, ‘What are you doing here? I don’t know if you’re making a difference anymore or not.’ I said, ‘I just think that maybe it’s time.'”

Settling into a career

Bowman said he was drawn to become a teacher while he was a student at Austin High School.

“I liked some of the teachers I had at Austin. I thought that they were really good people, and almost all of my family had been factory workers, and I saw what they did and I said, ‘I don’t want this. I don’t want to put my life in that,'” he said. “I saw what toll it took on their body and different things like that, so I thought maybe this would be a situation where I can break the cycle of that.”

After graduating in 1971, he went to Indiana State University. He initially declared history as his major.

“But as soon as I got up there and started thinking about it, I thought, ‘Maybe I ought to try math because history, you have to do a lot of talking with explaining to kids but also have them talk back to you. Math, I could show them an example, didn’t necessarily have to have them talk back to me and it was a solid example that a person could see,'” Bowman said.

“I was good at history because I could memorize dates and stuff, but two of my friends were going into math, and I thought, ‘Hey, I’d like to be in a class with them every now and then,’ so I thought, ‘Well, let me try math,'” he said. “I never really looked back. … I think I’ve enjoyed math more than I would have history.”

Bowman earned his Bachelor of Science in mathematics with a physical education minor in 1975 and applied for teaching jobs at Crothersville, Austin and Scottsburg.

“By the time I got back home, Crothersville had already called me for an interview, so I came up the next day, interviewed, they pretty much hired me on the spot and I’ve been here ever since,” he said.

At the time, Bowman said Crothersville had three openings for math teachers, and he chose to take a high school position. Over the years, he taught Algebra 1, Algebra 2, geometry, precalculus and calculus.

Bowman said he always told students that math is a pattern, and if they let him show the pattern and break it down step by step and they follow it, they will be successful.

“I had a kid one year, he got C’s in his other math class, and he came in here and he got A’s for the entire year,” Bowman said. “He was so excited, and it’s like, ‘Wait, you’re still the same kid, I’m showing you a different way to do this and if you follow, you’re seeing you have success.’ That’s what I tell the kids, ‘Isn’t it amazing what success you can have if you follow what I tell you to do?'”

Making an impact

Seeing students have success in math was fulfilling to Bowman.

“It’s almost like the cartoon, you see the light bulb go off over their head and you can see that it’s finally clicked,” he said. “Like maybe they never really understood why they were doing a certain thing, and if you show them a different approach to it, it’s like, ‘I finally get that. Last year, I never quite figured out what they were talking about. Now, I get it.'”

He also had former students come back to him and say his classes helped prepare them for college.

One girl got an A on a calculus test at Indiana University, and other students who had attended larger high schools asked her how she did it. She said it was because she followed what Bowman told her.

“That’s one of the things about this job. It’s not the physicality of it. It’s the mental part of it,” Bowman said. “Some days, you just get so drained mentally. Then other days, I’ve left here just so pumped up because somebody actually saw that I made a difference in somebody’s life. By being a teacher, every now and then, you can see that you’ve actually had an effect on somebody’s life.”

Not quite done

While he is leaving the classroom, Bowman doesn’t plan to end his coaching career. He wants to continue coaching cross country and track and field.

Early in his career, Bowman coached basketball for 24 years, from junior high to high school. He has coached track and field for 40 years.

Bowman played basketball in middle and high school. Then his senior year, a coach at Austin talked him into throwing the shot put since he didn’t have any returning throwers.

When he later started teaching at Crothersville, there were coaching positions open, and Bowman jumped at the opportunity.

“The last few years before I got here, they were on a downhill slide with a lot of things, but when I got here with all of the other teachers who came in and some new blood and some new excitement, it was like we kind of got the kids excited, too, and we kept teachers for quite a while,” he said. “The kids have taken more pride in the school and different things like that. Crothersville has just hung in there and has had success.”

Last fall, the girls cross country team won the Southern Athletic Conference meet for the fourth straight year, advanced out of sectional for the first time and had a runner, freshman Kaylyn Holman, run at the state meet.

He also has had multiple track and field athletes win sectional titles and advance in the postseason.

“Even being a small school, I think that’s what kept me in, just the fact that we’ve had some success, and I like being around the kids,” Bowman said. “I can talk to them in class, but the coaching, we’re outside the classroom setting, and we’re in a rural setting, we’re sitting out in the sun, we’re in the rain, we’re riding a bus.”

Staying young

On many of those bus rides, Bowman said the athletes would gather around him and just talk about a variety of things.

“I get to know them, and they get to see a different side of me,” he said. “They know I’m the disciplinarian in the classroom, but they see me outside and they know I’m a good jokester and stuff like that, so I think it helped me to relate to the kids.”

He said it has helped him stay young.

“There are times that the only way I know how old I am is to look in the mirror,” he said. “I’ll be talking with kids and I feel I’m a part and they treat me like I’m a part of the group, and they don’t treat me like, ‘Oh, this is an old man talking to us.’ … I think being around them in different settings, they’ve looked at me and said, ‘You know, I can get along with this guy.'”

Considering the success in cross country and track and field in recent years, Bowman said he just isn’t ready to give up coaching.

Plus, he and his son, Marc Bowman, can continue to coach together.

“Knowing what I’ve got coming back from that group, I just couldn’t walk away from them, and I think Marc doesn’t want me to walk away from them, either, because he really likes working with them,” he said. “I can’t give this up at this point.”

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Name: Carl Bowman

Age: 66

Hometown: Austin

Residence: Crothersville

Education: Austin High School (1971); Indiana State University (Bachelor of Science in mathematics with a minor in physical education, 1975); Indiana University Southeast (Master of Science in education)

Occupation: Recently retired after 44 years of teaching math at Crothersville High School; still plans to continue coaching cross country and track and field

Family: Sons, Ben Bowman and Marc Bowman; daughter, Lacey (Matt) Howard; granddaughter, Ellie Howard; brothers, Ronnie Bowman and James Bowman