Hupe award honors PLHS physics teacher
Photo and story by Carolyn Kaberline
While Perry-Lecompton High School teacher Eryn Norton always knew she wanted to be a teacher, it wasn’t until she met Sheryl Shepherd-Adams, her freshman physical science teacher at Hays High School, that she knew that science was the field for her.
“I just loved her class and the experiments we did,” Norton said. “She even let us do our own thing at times. Because of that a friend and I designed an experiment to test particles in the air using a spectrometer.”
Norton enjoyed her class so much that she went on to take other science classes, including Shepherd-Adams’ advanced physics course for which she earned dual credit during her senior year.
“I was her teacher’s assistant that year too,” Norton added.
Her experiences in Shepherd-Adams’ classes made it easy to select a teaching area when the time came.
“I knew that science was something I really liked,” Norton explained. “I thought it would be fun because she was so enthusiastic.”
That same enthusiasm has been carried into her own science classes at PLHS. In fact, it’s that enthusiasm and a desire to teach the subject through classroom experiences that led to her selection as this year’s recipient of the Doris and Dale Hupe Teaching Excellence Award.
The Hupe award is presented to an outstanding teacher in USD 343 each year, especially one who motivates students to want to learn and to obtain more education.
According to the procedures set up by the Endowment Association, the staff in each district attendance center is allowed to nominate one or two teachers.
Nominees are then asked to write an essay before being interviewed by a selection committee made up of the superintendent and a parent representative from each school. The announcement of the winner is made at the staff appreciation luncheon held at the end of the school year.
A native of Hugoton, Norton graduated from Fort Hays State in May of 2009, majoring in physical science with an emphasis in physics and earth space science. She also has a degree in secondary education and a minor in math. In addition to her course work, Norton ran a girls’ math and science camp at Fort Hayes for five years.
It was while she was doing her student teaching in Derby High School that she first heard of an opening at PLHS.
“There weren’t a whole lot of options in western Kansas, and I knew I wanted to teach physics,” Norton said, “and when I got online looking at jobs, I saw that Perry had two science openings. I applied for both because of my background, and I received a call a couple days later. I went to the school and loved everyone I met. I heard nothing but good things about the school from other teachers. I felt I was in a pretty good place. Then J. B. [Elliott] called a week or so before I was going to graduate and told me the chemistry job was filled, but offered me the physics and earth space science one. The physics pretty much made my decision out of the other positions I’d been offered.”
Norton says that her philosophy of education aligns with that of John Dewey’s. “To understand something you must experience it. We talk about the lesson in class, then we do it. This helps all types of learners; it’s what I experienced. It worked for me and lots of other classmates who didn’t learn like I did.”
In addition to receiving a framed certificate, Norton also received a monetary award of $1,000 which she used to purchase a dining room table for the house that she and her fiancé, Lance Moland, recently purchased.
“We wanted a dining room table,” Norton said. “It’s a good investment not just for now, but for the future. We were both raised old-school and have a lot of old-fashioned ideas. We want to pass down our values.”
Norton noted that one of those values was to have a sit down meal “where we can sit and talk and figure out what’s going on in everyone’s life. We both grew up this way.”
Norton added that the table is the first major purchase for the house.
“We were saving for it,” she said. “We looked for a long time before we found this one. It’s oak and kind of a cross between the one his parents had and my parents had.”
Norton added that now when their families and friends visit they’ll have a place where everyone can gather and celebrate—“even if it’s just celebrating being together.”
With their wedding scheduled for June 25, Moland and Norton will soon be using the table regularly with plans for children to one day join them there.
“We’re going to have a plaque made for the table to tell what made it possible,” Norton said.
“I couldn’t be happier knowing that the people I work with nominated me for the award.”
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