UM Alum Named 2023-2024 Alabama Teacher of the Year

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UM Alum Named 2023-2024 Alabama Teacher of the Year

University of Montevallo Graduate Jeff Norris Ed.S. ’12 was recently named Teacher of the Year by the Alabama State Department of Education. Norris, a native of Jasper, teaches sixth grade math at Oak Mountain Middle School in Birmingham and has worked in education for 18 years.

Jeff Norris with Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Lewis Brooks.

Each year, the Alabama Teacher of the Year program recognizes excellence in the teaching profession by identifying outstanding classroom teachers in Alabama at the local, district and state levels. Local schools vote for their teachers of the year, who then become candidates for teacher of the year for their school system. Sixteen finalists—elementary and secondary teachers from the eight districts of the Alabama State Board of Education—are then selected by district-level committees. At the state level, the “Sweet 16” are narrowed down to four, and after a round of in-person interviews with the state committee, a Teacher of the Year is selected. Norris was announced as the winner at a Sweet 16 ceremony at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts on May 10.

“It’s definitely an honor,” Norris said. “I feel like it’s almost selfish to be honored for doing something you love. I feel great joy every day and to be recognized for that is kind of the icing on the cake.

As Teacher of the Year, Norris will serve as an ambassador for the teaching profession by conducting workshops for teachers and speaking to civic and professional organizations, P-12 schools, colleges and universities.

“This is not an award for the best teacher in the state,” Norris said. “I am an ambassador and representative of educators in the state. I take this very seriously and want to make every minute count and just spread the positive things about our field across the state. That’s my goal this year.”

Prior to his position at Oak Mountain Middle School, Norris taught third grade at Chelsea Park Elementary School, fifth grade at Chelsea Middle School, and gifted education at Chelsea Middle School, Chelsea Intermediate School and Shelby Elementary School. He was an administrative assistant at Montevallo Elementary School, an assistant principal at Inverness Elementary School, and a principal at Helena Elementary School. He has worked and lived in nearly every area served by Shelby County Schools.

In 2012, Norris received both an educational specialist degree in teacher leadership and a master’s degree in teacher leadership from UM. Both programs are a hybrid format, allowing Norris to work full-time and care for her family while earning her degrees.

“Our graduate education programs at Montevallo aim to engage professionals in reflective practice to help them become the educators they aspire to be,” said Dr. Jennifer Alexiou-Rey, director of graduate programs at UM, “ whether in the classroom providing direct services to students or as school/district leaders.”

Dr. Courtney K. Bentley, who currently serves as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, led the program during Norris’ time at UM.

“We are extremely proud of Mr. Norris and honored that he chose the University of Montevallo for advanced studies in teacher preparation and leadership,” Bentley said. “He is extremely caring and dedicated to his students. We commend him for his service and dedication to the profession. We know he will continue to make a positive impact on the lives of his students, their families and the community he serves.”

Norris also holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Alabama and a master’s degree in gifted education from the University of South Alabama. As a student at UM, he received the Outstanding Graduate Teacher in Leadership Award from the College of Education and Human Development.

“I think there’s a place for everybody in Montevallo,” Norris said. “It’s a place where everyone feels comfortable. Having a local university that is as prestigious as UM but also has a warm, welcoming, casual feel is so important. That’s what I want people to think of me – that I’m professional and knowledgeable, but I’m also very approachable and casual in my tone.”

Norris and his wife, Sarah, who also teaches in Shelby County, have been married for 18 years and have two children, Maggie and Miller.

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