Teachers change lives every day

Thank you, Mr. Norris

Author: Andrea Coombs
Teacher's name: Mr. Ian Norris
Teacher's school: Pasadena Academy

While attending junior high years ago at Pasadena Academy, I had an amazing, supportive, life-changing teacher. His name was Mr. Ian Norris, or “Nortex”, as we affectionately called him (the nickname reflected his love of athletic gear).

His commitment to students and outdoor education was remarkable, and I have reflected many times on the positive impact he has had on my life. Every time I mention his name to anyone I went to school with, he is recalled fondly. His outdoor adventure field trips (often after school hours) are some of my most cherished memories from junior high. In fact, in the photo I have attached to this story, Mr. Norris had just taken us on a field trip to explore caves (he is in the front row, fourth from the left with a white hard hat on, and I am also in the front row, sixth from the left).

While I do not know the circumstances of his employment, I do know this – he lives for physical education. However, he was also responsible for teaching us English. I’m not sure whether it was to make it palatable for us, or for him, but we did our English (double period with gym) out in the woods. We would snowshoe or cross-country ski out behind our school, light a fire, and read from “Hatchet”, the story of a lone adolescent plane crash survivor in Alaska. His teaching style was remarkable.

As a very non-athletic female, junior high was a special form of torture. Gym class was still a required subject, and bullying was a reality. As a high-achieving academic student, Mr. Norris took the time to encourage my writing (even though it was admittedly terrible) and support my non-athletic pursuits. In gym class, when I became the target (metaphorically or literally), he was quick to step in and redirect the negativity (or the ball). Having the very athletic and well-liked teacher on my side did wonders for my confidence and gave me a sense of safety and security that was immeasurable. Mr. Norris helped me survive junior high while instilling a sense of worth, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Since graduating from Pasadena Academy in 2003, I have completed both a B.Sc. and M.Sc., and work as an Environmental Manager full-time. This enables me to get outdoors every day and live life in a way I know Mr. Norris would be proud of. Even more so, in my free time, I hike and camp and snowshoe and ski and swim and paddle and just be outside. And when I do, I remember the teacher who exposed his students to these activities in such a positive, supportive, and safe environment.

Unfortunately, Mr. Norris had moved on from Pasadena Academy even before I had graduated. As an adult, I have not had the opportunity to reach out and tell him how much he is appreciated. Thank you, Ian. Thank you for standing up for this young woman (and I have no doubt, many others). Thank you for giving me confidence and going out of your way to include me and motivate me. You are my hero.

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