“I call it guided discovery,” said the longtime Tidewater Community College associate professor of biology who teaches Human Anatomy and Physiology. “They learn how to learn. The BIO 141 students don’t always like that. They want you to tell them where the muscles are, for example. I show them how to learn. By the time they get to 142, they’re great at it.”
For the last 22 years Fowler has guided students through the arduous process of learning about the 300 bones and muscles that comprise the human body. Her labs are engaging and interactive, and when a question arises, Fowler and the student discover the answer together.
She’s supportive of the range of new technology – iPads and camera phones – that facilitate learning; students these days actually photograph what’s on a microscope slide and some make YouTube videos to better grasp the material. Fowler is also grateful that TCC students learn from cadavers (no photos allowed of those); the department will have four by the fall.
“As a department, we dissect them,” she says. “Students can learn all the parts from the cadaver – the muscles, abdominal cavity content. We can tap blood vessels; sometimes I’ll put suture on it.”
Fowler has never stopped learning. Twice a week for the last 25 years, she has worked the night shift as a surgical assistant at Sentara Virginia Beach General. Essentially, she’s a second set of hands for the surgeon.
“From gall bladder to brain surgery, I do it all,” she says. “My experience at Sentara has made my class better because I can talk to my students about real life.”
A military brat, Fowler didn’t predict her career path; she had a fascination with marine biology dating back to the television show “Sea Hunt.” She earned her bachelor’s in health and physical education from Old Dominion University in 1978 and then her master’s in education with an emphasis in sports medicine in 1981.
After working as a student trainer at ODU and then at Princess Anne High School, Fowler opted to follow her passion. A certificate program at Eastern Virginia Medical School led her to Sentara and to TCC, where she had previously taught part time.
“There’s a lot of freedom to teaching,” says Fowler, currently working toward becoming credentialed in online teaching. “The kids are new and always energetic, and they’re always changing.”
Away from work, Fowler enjoys the Outer Banks and living with her feral cat and two ducks. Despite her easygoing personality, in the classroom, she’s a stickler for detail.
“Spelling counts,” she says. “They lose half a point when they misspell the name of a body part. I tell my students if they misspell a word and write it out 25 times correctly, they can earn that point back.
“Most importantly, I teach them to be lifelong learners.”