Mark Lowry: A Champion for Geographic Education in Ontario and Beyond

June 19, 2014 Angela Alexander

Mark Lowry is a leader in geographic education who's had a big influence on the adoption of spatial technologies and curriculum development in his long career in education. His dedication to promoting GIS in Ontario has given us many opportunities to work with him. Read more about Mark's contributions and his impact on teachers, students and his colleagues.

Mark Lowry is truly a champion for geographic education. Throughout his career, he has worn many hats, allowing him to extend his reach to teachers, students and the professional community. In his most recent position as a consultant at the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), he worked hard on several initiatives. He ensured teachers have access to geographic information software (GIS) on their school computers. He helped revise the current Canadian and World Studies curriculum to include more spatial skills. And he also facilitated a countless number of GIS workshops and supported initiatives in geographic education, including setting up a GIS portal where teachers can access geographic resources and data through the TDSB server.

Before Mark worked as a consultant, he taught geography at Central Technical School (Central Tech) in Toronto. Dave Bates, a former student of Mark's, remembers his easygoing teaching style that encouraged students to want to learn. As Dave said in a recent phone conversation, “Mark was so passionate about geography and GIS that he made his students feel empowered and confident in their abilities.” Having a mentor like Mark influenced Dave's decision to study geographic analysis at Ryerson University.

Through his involvement with the Ontario Association for Geographic and Environmental Education (OAGEE), Mark managed the Geotechnologies Summer Institute at Ryerson, an annual four-day workshop for educators. Last year, Jill Bishop, a program facilitator at the Durham School Board, attended the workshop and gained a lot from the experience. Soon after the training, she shared her newfound knowledge by running her own series of GIS workshops for teachers at the Durham school board. Jill believes Mark is successful because he teaches geographic skills rather than content and this approach makes GIS applicable to all teachers.

Mark also supported teachers outside of Canada. He led GIS workshops at The Chinese International School in Hong Kong and has helped to develop the core geographic and earth science curricula for the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Mark's been recognized by his colleagues for his hard work and dedication. While serving as President of OAGEE, he was nominated by his colleague Paul VanZant as a Fellow at the Royal Canadian Geographic Society.  In a recent email, Paul wrote: “The depth and breadth of Mark's contributions to geographic education in Ontario, and throughout Canada, was, in my mind, more than worthy of the honour. I have served alongside Mark on a number of projects and committees through the years, most notably OAGEE and on curriculum reform, and I believe his contributions to our discipline and to geographic educators everywhere have been invaluable.”

Mark Lowry with Jean Tong, 2014

We’ve been lucky to work with Mark at board-wide PD days, conferences, projects and at the Geotechnologies Summer Institute. He has an infectious spirit, as anyone who’s worked with him would agree. Through his passion, foresight, hard work and dedication, Mark has helped to make geography and GIS relevant in Ontario and beyond.

Mark, congratulations on your retirement! Thank you for all your support through the years and we wish you happiness and success in your future endeavors.  We will miss you, but make sure to keep in touch.

Please share your stories of Mark and tell us how he has influenced you by leaving a comment below.

Thank you to Ewan Geddes, Paul VanZant, Lew French, Jill Bishop, Gary Birchall and Dave Bates for your contributions to this blog post.

About the Author

Angela Alexander

Angela Alexander is a K-12 Education Resource Developer on the Esri Canada Education and Research team. She has over six years of experience working with educators across Canada. Angela is responsible for producing geographic information system (GIS) and curriculum specific resources, conducting and creating custom workshops for educators and judging and developing the question for the annual GIS Skills Ontario competition in Waterloo, Ontario. Angela has a Bachelor’s degree in Geography and Sociology from the University of Western Ontario and completed the Applied Digital Geography and GIS certificate program at Ryerson University.

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