Here and back again: Northwood alumni return as teachers

From left to right: Alex Hart, Kristen Norwood, Adam Perry, Valencia Toomer
From left to right: Alex Hart, Kristen Norwood, Adam Perry, Valencia Toomer

“I was definitely that senior that was ready to get out of Northwood,” dance teacher and 2006 Northwood graduate Kristen Norwood said. “I was ready to leave and I swore I would never ever come back.”

Despite her vow to never return, Norwood is in her third year teaching dance at Northwood.

“I got a job teaching dance at a high school in a different county, and I have never missed home and my family so much as in those first years I was teaching so far away,” Norwood said. “It was 45 minutes away, but it felt like hours.”

Similarly, Adam Perry, Photography and Tech Theater teacher and 2010 Northwood graduate, could not picture himself teaching at Northwood when he was a student.

“I would’ve laughed in your face if you told me as a student that I would be back here as a teach- er,” Perry said. “I knew I was going to come teach here about a month before I was here doing this.”

It took Perry a lot of adjusting to go from a student to a teacher at the same school within a few years.

“It’s different that I get to call my old teachers by their first names and they’re cool with it,” Perry said. “It’s almost like I have to relearn what to call them.”

Physical Education teacher and 2008 Northwood graduate Alex Hart has also had a hard time adjusting.

“It was really weird the first couple of days walking through the hallways,” Hart said. “In some ways it reminded me of being a freshman again, because it’s a brand new experience.”

Although the school has developed, Perry doesn’t think there have been any drastic changes.

“Northwood hasn’t changed as much as I thought it might have,” Perry said. “Even though teachers have come and teachers have gone, I still get the same kind of vibe from the faculty.”

However, assistant principal and 1998 Northwood graduate Valencia Toomer has noticed some major developments throughout the school since she was a student.

“There have been a lot of changes,” Toomer said. “The addition of the arts wing is brand new, the enclosed cafeteria and display is new, the entrance to the gym is new, the multiple pods and trailers are new, the paved football area is new, the bleachers are new and so are the outside restrooms.”

One difference Perry has noticed is how the students at Northwood interact.

“Students are very different than we were when I was here,” Perry said. “We live in an age where technology moves so fast. When I was in high school, [the] iPhone wasn’t a thing yet. All we had was Facebook, and it was the one and only social media network that existed. Now there’s Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat and Instagram.”

According to Toomer, the community of Pitts- boro is evolving as well.

“[Pittsboro] used to be more rural, but now it resembles a suburb,” Toomer said. “When I was here, there was Hardee’s. That was the central hangout spot. But now you have so many things that are right here at the school. That has also increased jobs, so now we have a greater influx from Chapel Hill, which changes our culture here in Pittsboro as well as in the school. My graduating class was a little over 100, and the school didn’t even have 1,000 students.”

Norwood believes she has gone through many changes as an individual.

“Since I have been able to return and teach here, I feel like I have grown as a person, I’ve grown as a teacher, and I’ve grown as a choreogra- pher, just from being in this awesome environment that we have here at Northwood,” Norwood said.

Although Perry did not expect to become a teacher, he has enjoyed watching students learn his craft.

“It’s nice to see some of these people who ini- tially had a rejection to art suddenly get it,” Perry said. “You see them doing work and you can tell that they actually are enjoying it in some way, even if it’s not the way they thought.”

Norwood also likes to see her teaching pay off when she sees students starting to love dance.

“My favorite part is coming in everyday, teaching students new things and seeing that light bulb go off,” Norwood said. “Most students are very unsure of themselves when they start, because the majority of them have never had dance before, so we teach new stuff and we see things happen. That’s really exciting.”

Although Norwood started off thinking she would never become a teacher, she enjoys her role in the arts department at Northwood.

“The musical is one of those things where
we all come from different backgrounds and we mold together to create this magical, beautiful thing,” Norwood said. “As a teacher, being a part of something like that, playing a tiny role in that huge thing is just one of the most rewarding things ever.”

– By Katie Robbins

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