History teacher James Lowe to retire


Eli Peteuil

After 33 years, History teacher James Lowe is retiring. Thank you, for all you have done for the school!

Eli Peteuil, Reporter

After years of teaching at the high school, history teacher James Lowe announced his retirement. According to Lowe, coming back to his alma mater to teach was his dream job. Lowe enjoys teaching with a joyful spirit and using historical artifacts to teach. 

Lowe was eager to come back to Altoona to teach after he graduated from college. 

“I have worked as a teacher for 33 years, only in Altoona. In fact, I went to high school here and came back here after I graduated college, and I wanted to work here. My plan the whole time was to come back and teach in my own turf,” Lowe said. 

Lowe claims that he owes his teaching style to his mentor when he was a student teacher. 

I was a student teacher here in Altoona. I student taught under Dick Shafer, an American studies teacher. He was my role model for teaching. He taught similar to how I teach now, I admired his way of teaching so I tried to teach similar to that,” Lowe said. 

Lowe had a fascination with large trucks as a kid, which led him to want to be able to work with them when he got older. However, a ninth grade career survey changed his mind. 

“When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a fireman or a garbage man. I thought the big trucks were cool, but when I did my ninth grade career work, it was actually on being a social studies teacher. I think from that point and time on I knew I wanted to do this as a career,” Lowe said.

Lowe has mixed feelings about his retirement. While excited about the unknown, he will still miss the day to day life he knows now.

“Honestly, it is a very hard decision for me. For 33 years, this is what I’ve been, and what I’ve done, this has been me. Without having my own children, education has been the focus of my life, so it was really hard to decide to retire. My fear is, how much I’m going to miss it. I always look forward to new opportunities. I have a few books I want to write, and I’ve also thought about working for the National Park Service. As any student of mine knows, I love national parks, but I want to focus on volunteer work after I retire,” Lowe said. 

The students and co-workers Lowe has worked with over the years have left an impact on his life. Lowe wants his students to understand how important history is. 

“I think that the most important thing for me that I won’t forget is just the day-to-day impact that you have on students. Having students recognize the importance of history and telling our nation’s great heritage. I think that’s the most important thing of the 33 years of my life I’ve worked here. Also, I’ve had two transplants, one in 1997, and my second one in 2018, and the support I’ve received here from the faculty and the students even amazed the hospital faculty in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia that the people in Altoona are such great people,” Lowe said.

Lowe has been involved with several extracurricular activities during his time teaching such as being a founding member of the Patriotic Student Alliance club.

“I coached baseball for 15 years. I was the adviser for the National Honor Society for about eight years. I was the adviser of Youth in Government. And I was a founding member of the Patriotic Student Alliance (PSA) club: with that club we have raised over $10,000 to buy gifts for veterans who don’t have families,” Lowe said. “This year, my final project for the PSA is putting up a memorial downstairs that lists the name of every soldier that went to the Altoona School District that was killed in WWl, WWll, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s like a nice last parting gift from me to the school and not just that but it’s so these men and two women are not forgotten. I also was an adviser of Mock Trial, in which we won both a state and a national championship. I did that also for about 15 years.”

Lowe attributes his interest in historical topics to his father. Lowe’s father introduced him to history as a child, and his interest has taken off since then.

“Originally, I had a passion for history. It started with my dad taking me to the library when I was a child looking for something interesting to read, and I saw a book about WWll. I checked the book out and read it, and my passion grew from there. I found going into education was a way to share that passion of history with other people,” Lowe said.

Lowe plans to enjoy his retirement for a while before he gets back on the grind. Lowe wishes to get into volunteer work and publish a book or two. 

“Well, after I relax for a while and not have to worry about the daily grind here, and all the things you have to do as a teacher. I look forward to writing a book or two and doing volunteer work. I want to write a book about Altoona during WWll. I’ve already done one about the veterans of Altoona. But this will be more of a story of Altoona and all the amazing things that happened here during the war. I’m also looking at doing one about artifacts in the classroom, like if you’re a history teacher how you can use a real piece of history to help explain history other than using the textbook to teach it,” Lowe said. 

Lowe will miss teaching and the bonds he forms with his students every year. 

“I will miss the people, my colleagues and the students I have worked with in my career. They have all created such an impact on my life that will stick with me forever,” Lowe said. 

Though there are some aspects of teaching that he would like to do without, overall Lowe has loved his experience here.

“I always tell people that I’m grateful for the fact that I teach the best students in the world. People would say isn’t it hard being a teacher, yes the work part is, but the words are amazing. It’s so nice to hear I have made a positive impact, and that’s what I’m worried about missing. Like somebody just today was writing something for their English class about me, and after reading it; it was an affirmation to me that all the years I spent in the classroom were a job well done,” Lowe said. 

Lowe has some advice for the person taking his position. 

“Enjoy it. It’s a great career but it will be over before you know it,” Lowe said.

Lowe also has some words he would like to say to his colleagues.

“I will miss you all dearly. Thank you, for making this the greatest job in the world,” Lowe said. 

 The feeling is mutual for some students as well, some students who had Lowe say that they will miss and always remember him fondly. 

“I will always remember Mr. Lowe was a very inspirational and kind teacher.  His classes made me look forward to American History with his funny and insightful stories. He is a wonderfully unique teacher that I will never forget. Thank you Mr. Lowe for all you have done for me,” senior Olivia Batrus said.