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Lost a gem of a teacher in Dowd

As of Tuesday, March 1, it became official that over the next 13 years approximately 1,500 Oxford Middle School students will not have the opportunity to learn from and be inspired by the exemplary English teacher, Dr. Arleen B. Dowd. This is because Dr. Dowd retired on Feb. 29 from the Oxford School District.

Dr. Dowd had been planning to work 13 more years, doing what she has done her entire 31-year career: teaching adolescents the power and responsibility of using our native language with precision and passion, and at the same time, helping them to grow into compassionate and responsible adults. Except for this school year, because abruptly and without her consultation, school leaders reassigned her to a different subject and grade level.

School leaders offered first one, then another reason why this reassignment was made. Neither reason made sense. Dr. Dowd, as well as some brave colleagues, and many, many students and parents, protested this peremptory change. Why would an outstanding teacher be displaced from the position in which she was consummately educated, skilled and lauded by the community?

Dr. Dowd accepted her new assignment when it became clear the district would not retract its decision. True to her nature, she threw herself into learning the new subject and working with a different age group of students. Many of these current students will tell you she is the best teacher they ever had. But Dr. Dowd’s heart told her it was time to move forward to a new opportunity; it was hard to remain in a district where a teacher’s life’s work could be sacrificed to whatever “logic” the district decided was expedient.

This August, Dr. Dowd will move to Ankara, Turkey, for two years where she will teach English and gifted classes to Turkish and international middle-schoolers. She will team-teach with a native Turkish-speaking colleague.

I rejoice for her new adventure, as well as for her fortunate new students and colleagues. But I regret that no more Oxford students will be travelers in the Odyssey of learning that Dr. Dowd led. It is a profound loss.

Oxford School District leaders: make teachers the highest priority in the decisions you make to shape the future citizens of Oxford. After all, it is our teachers who shape our students. When you lose a teacher like Dr. Dowd, you have lost an irreplaceable treasure.

Anne Steel

Oxford