Todd Bowen: Director of Languages


Foreign Language Director Todd Bowen poses for a picture in his office.

By Sarah Cohen, Staff Writer

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of features about administrators, highlighting various adults at Niles West.

Teaching since 1985, Todd Bowen took up the position as director of foreign languages for District 219 four years ago, working at both Niles West and North.

Before coming to West, Bowen was a director and teacher of French in several other schools in the area, as well as in his home state of Indiana. He attended Anderson University in Indiana studying French and English education.

“I decided to be a teacher because growing up, I lived on a farm in Indiana and I just wanted to explore the world and have the ability to help other people explore the world. The college I attended, Anderson University was a Christian college, and their main goal was serving mankind and trying to make the world a better place, always valuing their teachings with moral and religious beliefs which have stuck by me since,” Bowen said.

Bowen’s main focus as a language director was making the program mirror the national levels.

“My main goal coming into the district as director was refocusing and aligning the curriculum so that it oriented the national standards. We’ve focused more on what students can do and what they are capable of, creating proficiency-based learning which includes not only speaking and writing but also the cultural component,” Bowen said.

In high school, Bowen was inspired by his high school French teacher, which is why he chose to study that language.

“I just loved the beauty of the French. For me, it was going to Europe and experiencing the beauty of the French and understanding their culture. I studied in France throughout college and went back for two summers to work in Paris later on,” Bowen said.

Bowen wants students to speak and write the language, but to also develop an understanding of the culture. The curriculum switch allows for these goals to be achieved instead of just learning the regular language rules and vocabulary terms.

French teacher Elizabeth Hinsinger started working at West the same year Bowen started out. Since then, she was able to work alongside him in French classrooms and see what activities he uses.

“When he took up the position as director in our district, he started to change the curriculum and the way our lessons were taught to the students. Compared to five or ten years ago, the lessons have now become more meaningful to the students. Instead of testing them and focusing more on grammar, we’ve changed it to working task-based learning. We give them a menu and have them order a meal and these things prepare them for real-life situations,” Hinsinger said.

Along with working with students on a day-to-day basis when help is needed, Bowen also worked with coordinating a new test called Seal of Literacy program which is designed for students who have shown high proficiency in the language to test record scores on their transcripts. 

“Studying German for the past four years at West has been an experience like no other. I’ve enjoyed learning and understanding not only the language but the culture as well. The lessons we are taught in each class allows me to be prepared for real-life experiences. Being able to take the SEAL has benefited my transcripts and future resumes,” senior Milkiyas Hailemariam.

Besides dedicating so much effort into creating an amazing department for languages, he also is involved with the state, regional, and National Organizational of Language teachers. He also enjoys spending a lot of his free time going to theater productions with his husband and listening to music, and spending time with friends.