I have sat and read the various tributes to Joe Bower over the past couple days and have wondered whether I had anything to say that has not already been said. I am not too sure if I have any new insight, but I do know that I want to share how Joe influenced me and what I learned from him over the years.
My first introduction to Joe was through Twitter, he seemed to have every second post on the #abed (Alberta Education) thread, where he spoke passionately and persuasively around his ideas on assessment along with commenting on the politics of education in this province. He seemed fearless, he took on ministers, journalists, other educators and engaged in the most difficult of conversations while maintaining professionalism, principle and humour. It was this exposure in my early days on Twitter that helped me find my voice in the medium and slowly shift from lurker to someone who shares to someone who engaged in the occasional debate.
I first met Joe at EdCamp YYC in 2013, I remember him being one of the first registrants after @paulgenge reached out to him. He helped get the message out to others and was a big part in the success of the event. In the years that followed, Joe would be a regular at EdCamp YYC, with him facilitating the most popular session discussing assessment practices and moving away from grades. I remember mentioning to him at the pub after last year’s event, that it was great his school was able to free him up to come down. He replied that he was not provided time, but used a personal day. That really epitomizes the kind of guy Joe was to me. He was willing to give up a precious personal day to drive 90 minutes and share his experience with others. There was nothing in it for him, no stipend, no travel costs covered, but he saw the importance of collaboration and sharing with others.
It is clear that Joe has had a profound impact not only in Alberta, but globally and the thoughts I have shared here have been shared by many. He was incredibly down to earth and despite his strong opinions there was never a sense of ego. His contributions are large and he will be missed, I will especially miss the chance to catch up with him at EdCamp YYC this year, but I believe his leadership and willingness to share over the years will live on as we all consider what is best for students.