When Linda Norris was growing up, she would spend part of her summers playing at Adams Elementary School in Hamilton, Ohio, where her grandfather was the principal.
“The new textbooks for the following year were housed on the stage,” she recalled. “So I would spend time there while he was working. There were no teachers or students in the building, but I would play school on the stage with the new textbooks.”
Given that history, it’s not surprising that Norris – the principal at Bonny Kate Elementary School – chose a career in education. But that family legacy has also extended to another generation.
Besides having four grandchildren who attend Bonny Kate as students, Norris has a son, Anthony Norris, who is a first-year principal at South-Doyle Middle School.
Anthony Norris said his first passion was coaching, which led to his career as a teacher. He praised his mother’s steadiness and her willingness to go back to school after having kids in order to pursue a teaching career.
“She just works hard and she cares about it,” he said. “She’s going to do her best every day.”
The work of teaching and learning runs deep in the Norris family, but they’re not the only ones. Across Knox County there are multiple examples of families whose service to students spans generations.
Bearden Elementary principal Susan Dunlap began her KCS career as a kindergarten teacher at White Elementary, which is now closed. Her father was a professor and an academic dean at Johnson University, and Dunlap said his influence shaped her career decision.
“I used to gather the neighborhood children in the basement of my house and have school,” she said. “I always wanted to be a teacher, and my parents, of course, encouraged it, and they provided me a space in my house when I was as young as probably fourth grade.”
Dunlap’s daughter, Jennie Scott, recalled that because her mother was a teacher and administrator, she would be recognized whenever the family went out. “I just remember as a child thinking, ‘Wow, she’s really making a difference.’ Not only for people, the kids that she taught, but for a community.”
Scott worked at a day-care facility while trying to figure out her career path after high school. That experience, she said, steered her toward education as a calling as she realized “that’s what God wanted me to do, that’s where I’m supposed to spend my life and invest in kids and that I had a talent and I would be wasting it if I did something different. And clearly it’s in my blood.”
Scott became a teacher and is now an assistant principal at Christenberry Elementary. In fact, her husband, David Scott, is a social-studies teacher and coach at South-Doyle High School.
Jennie Scott said one of the biggest things she learned from her mother is the importance of treating students as if they were her own children. “I tell my parents, ‘I treat your child no differently from my own.’ And I think my mom had a lot to do with that. She never said that; it was just her actions that proved it.”
Last year, the paths of mother and daughter converged when both Christenberry and Bearden Elementary were designated as Reward Schools by the state of Tennessee. And for her part, Dunlap became emotional when talking about her daughter’s journey.
“She knew it was hard work, but she knew the rewards,” Dunlap said. “It’s so rewarding.”
For some families, the path to the classroom was unconventional. Cynthia Lynn worked as a nurse for 15 years before becoming a teacher.
After several years teaching at Gibbs High School, Lynn left to teach at Carson-Newman University and later at King University, but in 2017 she returned to Gibbs and started a Certified Nursing Assistant program.
Lynn’s daughter, Julia Loy, also became a nurse but more recently began working as a health-science teacher at South-Doyle High School, while her son, Nathan Lynn, is the assistant principal at Halls Elementary.
Both had their mother as a teacher – Loy at Carson-Newman, and Nathan Lynn at Gibbs High School.
Loy said that her mother provided health care to people who were experiencing homelessness, and that helped shape her own approach to people.
“That’s what I learned from my mom – you treat everyone the same,” said Loy, who still works as a nurse on weekends and during summers.
While Nathan Lynn never worked in health care, he learned from his mother about the value of listening, a lesson that has shaped his approach to working as a school administrator.
“If you just listen to (school employees), we can get them where they want to be to make an impact,” he said. “And as far as parents and the community, they’re going to tell you what they want and how they want their kids to grow. … Then you can formulate that vision for your school if you just listen really well and hold those high standards.”
For her part, Cynthia Lynn said she’s glad that her children chose to stay in the KCS family because “I just love Knox County. … I think they did well by choosing Knox County to use their gifts.”
Josh Flory is a multi-media specialist with Knox County Schools and writes this blog, Hall Pass, for the KCS website.