Tooele High teacher Bob Gowans will shine in the spotlight Friday night at the Huntsman Awards for Excellence in Education at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City. Although he will be one of the honored guests, it will be somewhat uncomfortable for Gowans.
“I’m not used to all the attention, all the newspaper interviews and photographs,” the Future Farmers of America (FFA) advisor said Monday in his classroom at the high school.
On Sunday, Gowans was officially named one of 10 Utah educators to receive a Huntsman Award for Excellence in Education. At the banquet he will receive a check for $10,000 and a crystal trophy.
Gowans knew about the award two weeks ago, but the Jon and Karen Huntsman family waited until Sunday to release the names.
“I was overwhelmed,” Gowans said.
On April 14, Gowans was leaving the parking lot when Principal Mike Westover stopped him on the premise that he had an important matter to discuss with Gowans. “He was stalling and seemed to be making things up as we walked back to the school,” Gowans said.
Soon Tooele’s FFA guru found himself surrounded by the Huntsmans and Tooele County School District officials congratulating him as a Huntsman Award winner.
“Award winners were selected by a panel of judges who are some of Utah’s most distinguished education and business leaders,” reads a statement from the Huntsman family.
Jon Huntsman said: “Our family is honored this year to recognize the selfless commitment to our children that is characteristic of each of the 2005 award recipients. It is impossible to place a dollar value on the services that educators provide to our communities throughout the state. Nevertheless, the Huntsman awards symbolize our family’s gratitude to the profession in general. We are very proud of the ten outstanding individuals whose success stories merit special recognition this year. ”
Westover sent a nomination letter to the Huntsmans and Gowans received letters of endorsement from Sandra Shepard, Edward Dalton, Julie Busico, Charlie Roberts, Gary Bevan and Chad McCoy.
The principal said Gowans has made numerous unique contributions to the school and the community that no other person could make.
“He has consistently seen a need and met it. He has definitely exemplified excellence by making a direct, positive impact on the lives of students of Tooele,” Westover wrote.
Gowans has taught ag science at Tooele High for 18 years. Prior to that he taught for five years in the Emery School District. He attended Tooele High School and was the FFA president in 1978. Gowans family members are experts in ranching, farming, educational and political arenas. Together, they operate a cattle ranch in Vernon.
Bob’s father James is a Utah State legislator, former school administrator and elementary teacher. Bob’s brother Gary is a veterinarian in Tooele and also a district school board member. Bob’s brother Mike teaches agriculture education at Lone Peak High School in Highland, Utah.
Gowans said his dad and Tooele High ag instructor Leland Beckstrom were instrumental in helping him decided to pursue a career in ag education.
Now, with several years behind him, Gowans has taught nearly 10,000 students in a myriad of subjects including floriculture, landscaping, farm and ranch management, aquaculture, animal science and natural resources.
“I just enjoy seeing kids succeed. Each student succeeds in a little different way than another student,” Gowans said.
“As a student advocate, he has developed one of, if not, the best FFA program in the state of Utah. He has worked with over 2500 FFA students during his time here,” Westover said.
In addition to the agriculture classes and programs that he runs during the regular school year, Gowans consistently runs a summer agricultural program which has exceeded 800 students.
Further, he conducts a summer trail ride that has included more than 500 participants.
“I have known Bob since he was a student involved in 4-H. I even taught him,” said retired teacher and former colleague Lynn Wyatt.
“Bob is a tremendous teacher who is very concerned about young people. He works well with them and understands them. He has high expectations from his students which they live up to.”
“He cares about people and our staff recognized his efforts as a mentor teacher to other educators,” said Sandra Shepard, former principal at Tooele High School.
“Bob Gowans is becoming a rarity in the educational field. He works far beyond his contract time or year. His entire summer is spent helping students prepare for stock shows and rodeos. He is always somewhere serving the community or our kids.”
“Bob Gowans demonstrates community service daily,” said Tooele Mayor Charlie Roberts. “His volunteer work with the FFA and Tooele County Livestock Show is legendary in Tooele. As a dedicated member of the City Planning Commission, Bob tackles difficult issues and makes decisions that shape the future of our community.”
“Bob Gowans has influenced my life greatly,” said former student Ty Bevan. “If I ever had a problem he would help me out. There are many times that he would spend hours of his own time helping students fill out award applications. He was a great teacher and still is a good friend. It is because of Mr. Gowans that I have chosen to major in ag education and become a teacher myself.”
Other 2005 Huntsman Award for Excellence in Education recipients include Cheryl Jenkinson, elementary teacher in Moab; Kris K. Wright, elementary teacher in Centerville; Brian D. Conley, elementary administrator in Salt Lake City; Lori Leverton, middle school teacher in Vernal; Zac Bettinger, middle school teacher in Hyde Park; James Young, middle school administrator in American Fork; David Smith, teacher at Highland High School; Paul Hansen, administrator at Olympus High School; and Peter Weiler, volunteer at Summit High School in American Fork.