HILLSDALE — Annie Fowler, a former second-grade teacher at Hillsdale Preparatory School (HPS), is set to become the school’s new headmaster this fall.
Fowler attended Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, in rural Kutztown Penn., where she completed her undergraduate studies. She started teaching in Pennsylvania, not far from where she grew up, before moving on to Virginia where she taught for seven years.
In 2014, Fowler and her husband moved to Michigan, and they both took jobs at HPS.
“I was looking for something that was really different than what I had experienced,” said Fowler. “I wanted something where I could come to work and really make a difference in my students’ classroom — just really come to school and teach and focus on their needs.”
Fowler says Hillsdale Preparatory School was a natural fit, providing her with what she was looking for in a career move. She began teaching second grade at the school in fall 2014.
“When I was hired here, I was like ‘wow, this really is my dream job,’ because it was such a fresh look at education. It gave me a whole new perspective,” said Fowler.
Fowler spent the next four years teaching second grade, where she worked with former headmaster George Bauman and Bob Henthorne, HPS’s CEO, to start a literacy night, and bonded with her fellow teachers and her students’ parents.
When Bauman’s departure was finalized in April 2018, Fowler saw the opportunity to make a transition into school administration, and she and Henthorne began talking about the promotion.
“When our headmaster decided to leave, for me it was the next logical step in my career,” said Fowler. “I wanted to lead the school in a much different way. I wanted to have a greater impact in the school.”
Fowler says the transition from teacher to headmaster has been an easy one, and credits Henthorne, her fellow teachers, and HPS staff, including Melody Henthorne, HPS’s secretary, for their help throughout the process.
“It’s been a really smooth transition for me,” said Fowler. “I’ve been in the classroom for so long I was nervous about taking on this new challenge, but Melody, and Bob and I have really made an amazing team, and they were able to get me up to speed on everything I needed to know.”
One of the things that excites Fowler the most about being able to lead HPS as headmaster, she says, is working to generate new ideas to help teachers have the most impact in their classrooms, and to help students get the best education possible.
Fowler says she admires HPS’s innovative approach to blending a classical model of education with technology, to help kids master the basics, but also put them on track for succeeding in today’s increasingly digital environment.
“One of the things that was really exciting to me is that we focus on teaching the basic skills but also bringing the school into the 21st century,” said Fowler. “Last year we purchased Chromebooks for the entire school. Although we are bringing in that technology, we’re still focusing on those basic skills.”
Fowler says another thing she admires about HPS and wants to continue, is the school’s literature program, which draws heavily from Michigan authors.
“Our literature program has a strong focus on Michigan authors, which is really exciting,” said Fowler. “It gets the kids really engaged and helps them connect with the stories, which are taking place within their home state.”
HPS’s unique approach to education, says Fowler, delivers extraordinary results for the school’s students — all while predominately focusing on a back-to-basics approach to education.
Citing HPS standardized testing scores, Fowler adds that even though the school doesn’t teach with a focus on preparing kids for standardized tests, HPS has been consistently ranked as one of Hillsdale County’s highest performing schools.
“Our students perform well on standardized tests, even though the tests are not our focus,” said Fowler. “That was something that was very different for me than my last teaching experience. Our students do well as an end result of our teaching, not because of the pressure or emphasis that we put on the tests. That’s something extremely important to me as an educator.”