Teacher Feature: LPECC’s Julie Dowden works to encourage students

Julie Dowden has a mission. 

Students need to see her classroom at the Lincoln Parish Early Childhood Center as a safe place to explore and learn. 

“I always enjoyed school as a kid,” Dowden, a Bossier City native, said. “I loved the ritual of back-to-school shopping and still get excited when I see school supplies on the shelves. Growing up I was often told that I should become a teacher when I grew up and I had some great teachers who really made an impact on me.” 

This impact began with her mom, who was a special education and second grade teacher. 

“I used to draw on her overhead projector and pretend to teach my own class in the afternoons,” Dowden said. “When I began middle school, my mom went on to be a children’s minister, which is what eventually brought us to Ruston. Over the years I helped out with Vacation Bible School, Mom’s Day Out and Parent Night Out events.  I found working with children to be rewarding.  In college I dabbled in journalism and family and child studies before finally settling on early childhood education.” 

Student teaching at Louisiana Tech’s Early Childhood Education Center under Lauren Chestnut sealed the deal for her, Dowden said. 

“Pre-K was the place for me,” she emphasized. 

Even though Dowden enjoys teaching, she said it does take some patience. 

“It is an overwhelmingly difficult job that requires a lot from you mentally, emotionally and physically,” Dowden said. “It is not something that you can do halfheartedly.  Each child who comes into your care has different needs, strengths, struggles and learning styles.  Especially with young students, teachers become a safe place as they explore and learn.  It takes skill, grace and mindfulness to be able to meet students’ individual needs.” 

Despite that, Dowden said she is already planning for the next school year. 

“We are starting a new curriculum and are receiving updated standards this year, so I am working with some teacher friends to get familiar with it all,” she said. “I try to spend my summers reading and finding new resources to implement in the next year.  I think it is important to reflect on the year and make note of what strategies and routines worked well and what could work better.” 

New teachers coming into the school system, she urged to be adaptable. 

“Each year has new challenges,” Dowden said. “Standards are updated, curriculums and expectations change.  Change is inevitable and you have to learn to go with the flow of it.  More than anything, when you are in the classroom with your students, you must hang up all of the other stuff going on in your life and just be present with them.  

“Plan well and be ready to adapt to what your students need each day.  Also, reach out to other teachers.  Be willing to share ideas and ask for input when you are struggling with something.  Your fellow teachers are a great resource and sometimes a different perspective can really help you get a handle on things.” 

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