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Shelby County educator named Teacher of the Year

Jeff Norris, an educator from Oak Mountain Middle School, is the 2023-2024 Alabama Teacher of the Year.

Norris was among 16 teachers also nominated for the award. Eventually, that group of sixteen was reduced to four finalists – Kevin Pughsley of Berry Middle School in Hoover, Lauren Murdoch Brascho of Coosa Valley Elementary in Pell City, and Katie McGee of Cullman Middle School.

As Teacher of the Year, Norris becomes Alabama’s official ambassador for education and the field of teaching. Pughsley was selected Alternate Teacher of the Year.

Norris is a sixth-grade teacher, but has also taught fifth grade, the gifted program and AP English in the Shelby County School System. He has also been a part of school administration, including an assistant principal.

His main goal in teaching, Norris said, is engagement.

“My beliefs about teaching center on three words environment, engagement and empowerment,” he said. “I ensure that my students are connected to the world around them. When I plan lessons, I keep engagement at the forefront and will go to extreme lengths to engage and gain the attention of our students.”

He also credited some of his favorite teachers growing up for shaping his life for the better.

“I experienced first-hand the impact of quality educators who cared about their students and wanted to leave a lasting impression,” said Norris. “I do not take my position lightly, because I know I have this same ability.”

Norris’s students said he had a positive impact on them not only as a student, but as a person.

Saisha said she was thankful for the environment created within his classroom.

“This was the best class,” she said. “My friends, classmates and Mr. Norris were more like my family, and this was the first class where I could open up and truly talk without overthinking.”

Another pupil, Tessa, said Norris’s class was life-changing.

“I remember on the first day of school, Mr. Norris handed us a quote to illustrate,” she said. “Mine was, ‘There is no elevator to success — you have to take the stairs.’ I told it to my dad, and he still tells it to me constantly.

“Every time I hear it, I think back to that day in English class that changed my life.”

Norris is nationally board certified and holds degrees in educational leadership as well as teacher leadership.

Kevin Pughsley of Berry Middle School is the state’s Alternate Teacher of the Year.

Austen Shipley is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News.

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