When 24-year-old Jorden Bowman clocked in for her shift at Pappasito’s Cantina on a chilly winter afternoon, she had no idea she would make a connection that would launch her future career. It was by pure chance that Harris County Department of Education’s (HCDE) four principals were seated in her section for their regular planning meeting.
Fortis Academy Principal Travita Godfrey, who was looking for a math teacher, and Bowman connected instantly. The decision to apply for the position was an easy choice for Bowman despite the unfamiliar challenge of teaching students in sobriety.
“I did a lot of research about the school, and I loved their mission and that they’re the first public recovery school in Harris County,” she said. “I thought, ‘I want to be a part of something like that.’”
Fortis is Harris County’s first public high school for students recovering from alcohol and drug addiction.
Bowman, a Houston native, received a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Prairie View A&M University in spring 2021 and is currently pursuing a master’s in curriculum instruction with a focus in mathematics. She also has hopes of becoming a professor someday.
The recent graduate majored in mathematics because of the various career paths it offers her within education. However, she always felt drawn to the classroom.
“When I was in school, I was always the project coordinator and the one who wanted to be the speaker, so teaching came naturally,” she said.
Initially, Godfrey worried Bowman would struggle with Fortis students as a soft-spoken, first-year teacher, but she “keeps them walking the line,” says the principal.
“I’ll be honest—I was kind of skeptical. I thought the kids might give her a hard time and that she might not be able to handle it, but she earned their respect simply by being herself,” said Godfrey. “During her interview, she shared some of her own challenges in college, and she knows what it’s like to struggle academically, so she understands what that’s like for some of our students and has the patience to make those connections. I like that a lot.”
Bowman took to the role well despite the obstacles she had to overcome, including her own apprehension.
“Coming into the school year, I was a little bit nervous because I haven’t been around many people dealing with recovery, but once I got to know the students and some of their struggles, I realized I was more familiar with some of their issues than I thought,” she said. “I feel like I relate to them in ways I didn’t expect to. I’m having a good time teaching and getting to know them personally.”
Bowman enjoys the victories she experiences as a teacher.
“When I see them excited that they learned something new or understood something with ease that they didn’t before, I feel really happy,” she said.
She is also grateful for the support of her coworkers and campus leadership, and she feels that gratitude reciprocated.
“I feel very appreciated. By coming here, I took a lot off of the other teachers who were pitching in to ensure students didn’t fall behind in math, and I like that they’re very vocal about those things,” she said.
Godfrey acknowledges the value of the energy and instructional aptitude Bowman brings to the school.
“I feel like this is her niche because she gets really excited about math,” the principal laughed. “She has been an amazing help to the students and me.”
Though she teaches math, Bowman is currently employed as a substitute. She plans to complete her teaching certification this summer and return as a full-time teacher in the fall.
At HCDE, she has found opportunities to do good for students and continue building herself.
“I like it here,” she said. “I recommend HCDE to the teachers in my grad school classes all the time because there is so much room to learn.”