Teacher of the Year, Norton shares curiosity about science with his students
Kyle Norton says he was inspired to do things differently in the classroom by a former football coach, who happened to be his science teacher at Eaton High School in southwest Ohio.
Mr. Mark Hoffman taught Norton that science was a subject that could be fun for students – if they weren’t just reading or answering questions out of a textbook in class.
“I wanted to be a teacher because I wanted to find a way to make school interesting for the kids that had a hard time being interested,” says Norton, 2018-19 Teacher of the Year at Woodford County Middle School.
Norton says he got good grades “because that was what was expected of me, but generally I was just bored. And all I ever wanted to do was just get through school to get to the sports after school.”
Mr. Hoffman’s hands- and minds-on approach to teaching biology, human anatomy and physiology changed Norton’s perception of what learning could look like in a classroom.
So instead of pursuing a career in coaching or homeland security or the FBI, Norton chose teaching – or, perhaps more accurately, teaching chose him.
“I always found myself taking science classes as electives,” he says of his college experience. “So even though I was in these criminal justice classes, I still was taking biology … I couldn’t get away from it.”
Norton says he eventually talked to a mentor, who told him, “You need to do what makes you happy.” So he changed his major to education “and as soon as I did I started liking the classes. I started liking being in the classroom… Eventually it went from wanting to coach to wanting to teach – to the point that I haven’t coached.”
Norton says he’s declined opportunities to coach because he didn’t want those responsibilities to take away from what he wants to do in the classroom.
“I think education is so vitally important,” he says. “Yeah, I learned a lot on the football field and playing baseball, but I could’ve learned so much more in school if things were just done a little bit differently” in the classroom.
That’s why Norton says he wants to foster his students’ creativity and their curiosity about the world around them.
“… As we go through our day,” says Norton, “we don’t pay attention to the amazing things that are happening around us … You are breathing, taking in oxygen so that your heart can pump that oxygen into these trillions of cells that are in your body.
“There’s all these fascinating things happening just in the process of sitting here” in a classroom. And beyond its walls are “amazing things like our planet’s orbiting a sun in the middle of this vast universe or the fact that energy can change forms and the fact that light has a speed limit,” he continues.
“There’s all these amazing things that happen, and we don’t even take a second to stop and think about how cool the world around us is.
And so our goal here in the seventh grade is to try to get kids to – at least a little bit – see that there’s actually some pretty interesting things happening around you besides your screen on your cell phone, which is also a really cool, interesting thing to learn about.” Now in his seventh year at Woodford County Middle School, Norton earned a bachelor’s degree in middle grade education (science and social studies) at Eastern Kentucky University and a master’s degree in education at the University of the Cumberlands. He and his wife, Alex, have been married for four years.