Bowser Award | NEP


Over 25 Years of Excellence
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Go seek your dreams if you believe
that you have wonders to achieve.
Take up the life that's left to you,
to seek your dreams and make them true.

- Charles W. Bowser

Who Was Charles W. Bowser?
Charles W. Bowser was a powerful civic leader in Philadelphia. He held many positions as a pillar of that community, including City Councilman, President of the Philadelphia Urban League, and the first African-American Deputy Mayor in the city's long history. He was an outspoken voice for equity, social justice, fairness, and opportunity for all. A potent adversary for those who sought to meet their own needs at the expense of others, and an accomplished attorney, Mr. Bowser was also a deeply compassionate and spiritual man who preached and composed poetry.

Because he felt schools were not meeting the needs of at-risk students, he conceived of instruction that would prepare students for work, tie in together, and make sense for the learner. Although he was not an educator, his brain child was utilizing some concepts pioneered by education great John Dewey decades earlier. But Mr. Bowser interwove those concepts with components of his own design, making the concept of "High School Academies" truly unique. The first academy to openly experiment with Mr. Bowser's concepts was the Academy of Applied Electrical Engineering at Edison High School in Philadelphia. That academy opened its doors in the fall of 1969.

The Charles W. Bowser Award
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In 2009, to honor the 40th anniversary of Charles W. Bowser's first academy, the National Educator Program created an award named after the man who had changed the lives of so many students and teachers through his educational innovation. The Charles W. Bowser Award for Innovation in Education is awarded to individuals who have initiated or helped to implement a substantial change in education that impacted the industry as a whole. It is not an annual award. It is given only as earned in order to protect the integrity of the award, and the name it carries.

Award Recipients
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The Honorable Al Glassman was principal of Edison High School overseeing implementation and development of the first career academy.

"We wanted to give this academy something that would distinguish it in the minds of the youngsters as something different and very special that they could belong to and be an important part of."
- Al Glassman

The Honorable Ehsanullah Ehsan took the Philadelphia model of career academies outside the United States to Kandahar, Afghanistan. There he uses career academies to educate young women and prepare them for careers, in defiance of the Taliban.

"This award is for all of Afghanistan. It's for the 800 girls who bravely come to school every day."
- Ehsanullah Ehsan

Watch the award video

The Honorable John Thompson was the lead teacher for the first career academy teacher team. Together they created curriculum integration between career classes and academic courses at a systemic level.

"Curriculum integration started working because we as teachers met, communicated, and worked hard over the dining table late at night ... The family as a whole stayed together and supported each other."
- John Thompson