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The Student-Run News Site of Carnegie Vanguard High School

Upstream News

The Student-Run News Site of Carnegie Vanguard High School

Upstream News

Jonathan Lowe: nostalgic softie or introspective problem solver?

Neela Ravi
Jonathan Lowe, wearing a Captain America costume while drawing a free-body diagram.

In a world that’s constantly racing forward, CVHS AP Physics teacher Jonathan Lowe likes to turn back time. Although, if you answered that you went backward for negative six years on a Physics FRQ, he would probably still mark it wrong.

Six years ago, Lowe made the decision to quit his 13-year job as an ExxonMobil Chemical Engineer to become a teacher. The reason behind this unexpected decision has been a highly debated topic among CVHS students all year. Lowe has always been passionate about math and science, but what made him decide to go into engineering in the first place, only to quit later?

“When I was your age, I filled out one of those surveys that said ‘okay, here’s what you like, and here’s what you don’t, so here’s the jobs that you should go after,’” Lowe said. “And my two [options] were chemical engineering and college professor. So I looked at both of those opportunities and said, ‘One makes a whole lot more money than the other one.’ And so I went into that degree.”

However, after 13 years into his career of making plastic precursors, which are present in virtually anything made of plastic, at ExxonMobil Chemical, Lowe found himself questioning if this was the right job for him.

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“I would go home at the end of the day, I would ask myself, like, who cares? I mean, yes, it’s important to have people use plastic…but there are a whole bunch of other people that can do this just as effectively.”

He reached his breaking point while working in Singapore for two years at ExxonMobil’s largest manufacturing site. Recounting his time in one of the busiest cities in the world, he contrasted his love for the city of Singapore with his disdain for the environment which he worked in there.

“If I could rewind and do two years of my life over again it would be… going back to Singapore. [And when I was there] I remember we had a good idea. There’s all kinds of ideas that people have in business. And we had a good one,” Lowe said. “[But our executives] just beat the crap out of us like we were unintelligent or hadn’t really crossed our t’s and dotted our i’s.”

Jonathan Lowe and his family on a trip to China while living in Singapore.

Lowe continued working for ExxonMobil for a few years after, all the while obtaining his teaching license at night and keeping an eye on potential opportunities elsewhere. So when Lowe had the opportunity to teach at Waltrip High School, he seized it. After transitioning to a teaching role, Lowe was able to find meaning in his career.

“I do make a difference,” he said. “Like when I drive home I can think of specific interactions that I have with people or classes… building those relationships with people and helping them find what’s important to them is way more valuable than saving money on building a new plastics plant.”

In his classroom, Lowe works hard beyond solely teaching the materials students need to learn in class. He wants his students to know that he is a resource and emphasizes his willingness to help in any way.

“I know that people need help,” Lowe said. “Any one of these kids could need something right now and they’re not all raising their hand and saying ‘I need it.’ But I want them to know that when that time comes, I’m somebody they can come to and talk to.”

Lowe also tries to remind his students that physics can be fun. He goes the extra mile to make lessons extra spicy, which keeps students engaged and enthusiastic about the class.

“I know that problems can get boring. So I just incorporate different celebrities… it was Jack Skellington today, yesterday was Mr. Taylor Swift…[the day before that] Nicki Minaj. Drake,” he said. “It isn’t just you know, the student on the bike like you makes it about Jack [Skellington]…the kids are more interested in it.”

Lowe greatly favored the subject of physics over biology, which he was required to teach at Waltrip. Being able to teach solely physics classes at CVHS was the main opportunity that drew him to the school. He also considered that at CVHS, students were better equipped to take the advanced courses he wanted to teach than students at Waltrip.

“The reason I like physics more than the other sciences is I believe it’s often logic-based, like you can think through a solution. Even if you’re not exactly sure what the right answer is, you can logic your way to it. And I just enjoy that type of thinking. Whereas like biology, it’s more memorization, right?” Lowe said. “In addition, the kids here are just great. Like, I know it can be stressful and difficult and all that but the kids here are really really special and y’all should know that.”

However, Lowe doesn’t just make a change as a teacher, rather, he takes on various roles. He also impacts the lives of the athletes he coaches in his free time, which also highlights his involvement in student life at CVHS.

“I do a lot of coaching,” Lowe said. “I’m coaching the girls’ basketball here. I coach a travel softball team that my daughter plays on.”

When he’s not coaching, Lowe enjoys watching old TV shows like The Office with his wife and two daughters. Unfortunately for him, his family had to draw the line when he regressed to his emo phase during COVID, growing his curly hair out to his shoulders (yikes!) and blasting the same Radiohead playlist he had from high school.

“Nobody likes it but me,” Lowe said. “Radiohead…their new stuff is bad. It’s trash. But the first five albums were really, really good. So I still listen to those. My wife hates it though.”

Similar to his nostalgic taste in music, his ideal day off would include a wistful drive around places from his past, reminiscing with his family about memories of the old plant he used to work at or the church his children were baptized at.

Lowe finds himself constantly reflecting on the memories, interests and decisions that have led him to where he is today. His deep dives into the past help him stay in touch with his identity and evaluate where he’s at in life, contributing to his conscious and logical manner of decision-making.

“If I hadn’t made that decision…It would have changed everything about how my life progressed,” Lowe said. “I might not have gone to the same college. You know, I might not have been around the same people when I got there, and then I might not have met my wife. It all could have been different…but it was the right decision and there was no looking back.”

Jonathan Lowe’s expansive shoe collection, for those wondering how he wears a different pair of shoes every day.

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About the Contributors
Neela Ravi, Feature Editor
It wouldn't be a surprise if the first words Neela Ravi ever uttered were "Swiftie 4 life," or "stream Taylor's version on Spotify." Constantly equipped with her rosy pink headphones slung around her neck, music seems to be a piece of the puzzle that fulfills Neela's soul. Whether it be bonding with her two sisters over K-pop or building countless memories with her friends at hotels, this CVHS junior has the ability to create healing synergy with those around her.
Kevin Pham, Staff Writer
Kevin Pham, senior at CVHS, is a video game, K-Pop, and TV-show enthusiast. He loves seeing the world through his favorite pastel colors, and he loves indulging in bun bo hue, a savory and tangy Vietnamese beef noodle soup. As an optimistic and outgoing writer, Kevin is greatly looking forward to being a voice to represent our student community.
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