Henrico’s Top Teachers – Lynne Norris

Years spent in the corporate world convinced Lynne Norris that what she really wanted to do wasn’t crunching numbers or clawing her way through middle management.

“I had said for a number of years that if I could do anything and money wasn’t an object, I would go teach high school,” she recalls.

Eventually, though, she dropped the financial condition.

“I quit my job, went to get my teacher certification and haven’t looked back,” she says.

The decision was an easy one for Norris, who is in her third year as department chair of Deep Run High School’s Center for Information Technology, which draws students from throughout the county. As a parent of two teenage sons herself – and as someone who found motivation from her high school teachers – there was little question where Norris wanted to be.

Deep Run’s program engages students in cutting-edge technology, helping to prepare them for college and careers in the field or as engineers, among other paths. The program counts 100 students among its ranks, and Norris says each one demonstrates skills and knowledge that impress her each day.

“I tell my students that in many ways they’re much smarter than I am, because they grew up with this [technology] and I didn’t. It’s part of who they are – they just take off and run with it.”

Norris requires each of her tenth-graders to become the class’s “consultant of the week” once, a role that asks them to become an expert on a new technology topic, then teach the class about it.

“Some of the topics they come up with are just amazing,” she says.

She also created a senior “Capstone” course that exposes students to four topics (information technology management, database design, network security or game design), during its first nine weeks, then allows them to choose one, study it in depth and write a research paper about the topic.

Norris fully involves herself not only in the center and her classes, but the students and the school community as a whole.

“Students enter her classroom eager to learn in a professional atmosphere where they are given up-to-date opportunities to discover, research and learn about the latest advancements in technology,” a colleague wrote in a nomination letter. “She serves on several committees, always volunteers for tickets sales, attends school events, speaks before community groups about the center and mentors new teachers in the center. She is also the advisor to the Computer Club and mentors girls in information technology. She must have a cape somewhere in her wardrobe.”

To Norris, her students make the job enjoyable and rewarding. They also keep her honest. “Being real with the students is really important, because they know when you’re not,” she says. “Putting it out there when I make a mistake, or if I don’t know an answer, I think they respect that. And because of those things they trust me.

“I love these kids and I tell them that regularly. I don’t have to care about these kids, but I really do. I care how they’re doing in all of their other classes and activities. They’re really willing to open up and do lots of things when they realize that people really do care.”
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SPARC’s teen summer musical “Oliver!” will be at the Henrico Theatre at 7:30 p.m. July 28-29 and at 2 p.m. July 29-30. The award-winning musical adaptation of the classic Dickens’ novel springs to life with some of the most memorable characters and songs ever to hit the stage. Book, music and lyrics by Lionel Bart. Tickets are $14. The July 20 performance will be sign-interpreted. For details and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.sparconline.org/tickets. Full text

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