Gordon Van Owen




ALUM_40Under40_Logo-white-01.pngGordon Van Owen
BA English '06, BSJ '06, MAMC '08  | New York, NY

TITLE: Lead Teacher
New York City Department of Education
INDUSTRY: Education

When he got to UF, he was a bashful, closeted, gay man who felt alone in the world, overwhelmed by his religious beliefs and his sexuality. After a few months, he quickly found a community of LGBTQIA+ identifying students who were on a similar journey that he was. They bonded over a shared experience and their identity as Gators. That community is why he has been active with the UFAA since he graduated in 2008. He has served on the Gotham Gators, spearheading the club’s scholarship program. He knew the importance of scholarships and how paying for college can be a barrier for many young people, which is why he gravitated to that pillar of service. Three years ago, he helped re-launch the Association of LGBTQ+ Alumni. He jumped at this opportunity because he knew first hand the importance of having a community of Gators to rely on at such an important moment in life. That’s also why the first goal of the affiliate was to launch a scholarship program, and why the affiliates newest initiative has been a Queer mentorship program, connecting Gators with Gator alumni from shared professional interests. If programs like that had existed when he was a student, he knows his life would have been different. 

Aside from helping him discover his identity, UF also led him to his passion. As a grad student, he had the privilege of teaching under the guidance of Dr. Julie Dodd of the CJC. Anyone who has graduated from the CJC knows the rigors of MMC2100. As a student, he feared the course; as a teacher, he loved the learning process. That experience led him to apply for Teach for America, and after graduation, TFA ushered him to NYC, where he has been guiding, supporting, and, most importantly, teaching students for almost two-decades. During his career in NYC, he has written AP English curricula that is used in hundreds of high schools across the city. He has mentored hundreds of teachers both at the school and district-level. If it were not for UF, he never would have found his passion to teach.