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Former student remembers TKMS teacher in book

Thornapple Kellogg Middle School teacher Jamie Bowman has a new favorite book containing a very personal message.
Bowman's former student Amy Purdy acknowledges a special connection with her one-time elementary teacher in her new book “On My Own Two Feet: From losing my legs to learning the dance of life.”
Bowman was in her first year of teaching in a Las Vegas elementary school. Purdy, who as a double amputee danced her way into the hearts of millions appearing in the 18th season of “Dancing with the Stars,” was one of Bowman’s first students.
“I’m honored to think I mattered enough to her in some way that she remembered me after all these years and mentioned me in her book,” said Bowman. “It’s really amazing what she’s done with her life.”
Purdy was just 19 years old when she contracted a form of bacterial meningitis. Doctors gave her about a 2 percent chance of survival. She lost both her kidneys, her spleen and both legs below the knee, but she’s surviving and thriving in a life she never could have imagined.
She’s a bronze medalist adaptive snowboarder from the 2014 Paralympic games. She ran “The Amazing Race” in 2012. She’s an actress and model. She’s co-founder of Adaptive Action Sports and a spokesperson for the Challenged Athletes Foundation. She appeared in a Toyota commercial that aired during the 2015 Super Bowl and drove the Toyota pace car for the Daytona 500.
She also joined Oprah Winfrey on Oprah’s “The Life you want to Live” tour.
In her book, Purdy writes on Page 11 about her third grade teacher, Miss Bowman.
“My other favorite subject was art. I could paint and get so lost in my head that I wasn’t sure how much time had passed. “That’s fantastic, Amy,” my fourth-grade art teacher, Miss Bowman, would say after I finished a drawing. She was the sweetest, most down-to-earth teacher I’d ever met. She also had a daughter around my age, and along with a few other kids from school we would sometimes have sleepovers at her place. “Hello, my dear! She’d exclaim whenever I visited. To be honest, I was better friends with Miss Bowman than I was with her daughter. She was creative: She spun her own wool and made sweaters and blankets. She had goats. And she was from Michigan, which sounded fascinating to me, simply because it wasn’t Nevada.”
Bowman says it was actually third grade, not fourth, but vividly remembers the young Purdy. “She was just a really sweet girl – a real go-getter.” Bowman has knitted a hat from her own sheep wool and plans to send it to Purdy with a heartfelt letter.
It was years since Bowman knew anything of Purdy or her parents. But one day she heard a familiar voice on the television.
“There was a show on called “How to Raise an Olympian” and I heard this voice I instantly recognized. It was Amy Purdy’s mother. It’s funny, but I knew that voice immediately,” said Bowman. “I didn’t know any of what had happened to Amy at all. It just made me sick.”
After that, Bowman was one of Purdy’s biggest fans when Purdy competed on “Dancing with the Stars.” She connected with Purdy’s Mom on Facebook. Then she learned of the mention in the book that came out in December 2014.
As a teacher, Bowman said she loves hearing from and about former students. Mostly, she admits, she loses track after they leave her classroom. “Yes, I might see some of them who stay around the community, but most of them I lose track of after a while. This is really special to me as a teacher. To know I made some small difference is what matters.”
Bowman is now in her 28th year of teaching and her 15th year at Thornapple Kellogg Schools. She said she’s thrilled to know she made a connection with Purdy and hopefully many other students throughout her career.
“The goal as a teacher is that you want to help make the world better. To think I had even a tiny bit in this for Amy just makes me feel really good,” said Bowman.