Blue Ribbon winner Norton Elementary wants to be even better

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Bobby Ellis
bobby.ellis@education.ky.gov

Emily Iliff, the assistant-principal of Norton Elementary (Jefferson County), says that part of what makes her school so successful is the family atmosphere that exists inside the schoolhouse walls. 

Norton recently was named a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.

“It really is like a family here,” said Iliff, who has been on staff for six years. “We have an incredible staff that go above and beyond. They really work to reach the kids at their level. We support each other when times are good and times are bad. I would trust the teachers here to do whatever needs to be done for our kids.” 

Iliff proves this feeling of closeness as she walks through the halls naming children as she walks from class to class, never making a mistake in this school of 735 students. 

Even though Norton was named as a Blue Ribbon School, Iliff said the teachers and staff will continue to keep pushing themselves to do better every day. The school’s motto is: “Norton Elementary, where all children learn at high levels. No Exceptions. No Excuses.” 

“Our teachers are so good at their job already, but I think that we need to keep pushing that envelope and pushing that boundary,” said Iliff. “Our scores are good, but we need to try. We need to keep finding things to continue to improve on and achieve.” 

Norton’s Blue Ribbon application says the school attempts to create well-rounded students by putting as much attention on its non-core subjects as its core curriculum. Each non-core subject is taught by a teacher that is certified in that area of education. 

Such is the case with Norton’s music class, taught by Diane Downs. Outside of her Norton classroom, Downs is the founder and leader of the Louisville Leopard Percussionists, a group of young musicians that was greeted with international recognition after their cover of Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir went viral; earning Downs an interview with the BBC in 2015

Downs said students in her music class at Norton are expected to practice and understand their music as much as any of the children in her percussionist group. 

“It’s all about getting the kids involved and keeping their attention,” said Downs. “Some classes are harder to corral than others, but that’s just part of it. You have to get them to buckle down and learn.” 

Special area teachers also collaborate with classroom teachers as a way to integrate core classes into their instruction. Downs reinforces reading concepts through singing and mathematical concepts through demonstrating the different rhythms used in playing an instrument. 

While in physical education classes, students use dance to illustrate different cultures. 

“It’s all about pushing those boundaries to make ourselves better,” said Iliff. 

Jacob McCord, a 2nd-grader at Norton Elementary (Jefferson County), jumps during an exercise break in Marcy Van Hoose's class. Photo by Bobby Ellis, Oct. 26, 2017
Jacob McCord, a 2nd-grader at Norton Elementary (Jefferson County), jumps during an exercise break in Marcy Van Hoose’s class.
Photo by Bobby Ellis, Oct. 26, 2017
Emma Galloway, a 4th-grader at Norton Elementary (Jefferson County), practices the Norton Fight Song in Diane Downs' music class. Photo by Bobby Ellis, Oct. 26, 2017
Emma Galloway, a 4th-grader at Norton Elementary (Jefferson County), practices the Norton Fight Song in Diane Downs’ music class.
Photo by Bobby Ellis, Oct. 26, 2017
Diane Downs, the music teacher at Norton Elementary (Jefferson County), asks students who was able to keep up with a rhythm for a song. Downs is the co-founder of the Louisville Leopard Percussionists and uses her class to help drive home concepts for core classes for students. Photo by Bobby Ellis, Oct. 26, 2017
Diane Downs, the music teacher at Norton Elementary, asks students who was able to keep up with a rhythm for a song. Downs is the co-founder of the Louisville Leopard Percussionists and uses her class to help drive home concepts for core classes for students.
Photo by Bobby Ellis, Oct. 26, 2017
Caroline Moser, a 4th-grader at Norton Elementary (Jefferson County), plays the xylophone during Diane Downs' music class. Downs uses the class to help reinforce lessons taught in core classes by using songs to help understand rhyms and beats and tempo to help understand math concepts. Photo by Bobby Ellis, Oct. 26, 2017
Caroline Moser, a 4th-grader at Norton Elementary, plays the xylophone during Diane Downs’ music class. Downs uses the class to help reinforce lessons taught in core classes, such as using songs to help understand rhymes, and beats and tempo to help understand math concepts.
Photo by Bobby Ellis, Oct. 26, 2017
Alex Cook, a 3rd-grader at Norton Elementary (Jefferson County), works on a test in Sharon George's class. Photo by Bobby Ellis, Oct. 26, 2017
Alex Cook, a 3rd-grader at Norton Elementary, works on a test in Sharon George’s class.
Photo by Bobby Ellis, Oct. 26, 2017
Tiffany Brown, a 1st-grade teacher at Norton Elementary (Jefferson County), works on reading comprehension with her students during class. Photo by Bobby Ellis, Oct. 26, 2017
First-grade teacher Tiffany Brown works on reading comprehension with her students during class.
Photo by Bobby Ellis, Oct. 26, 2017
Larry Smith, a 1st-grader at Norton Elementary (Jefferson County), works on a reading worksheet in Tiffany Brown's class. Students were encouraged to dress up for class during the day to celebrate the school's 50th anniversary. Photo by Bobby Ellis, Oct. 26, 2017
Larry Smith, a 1st-grader at Norton Elementary (Jefferson County), works on a reading worksheet in Tiffany Brown’s class. Students were encouraged to dress up for class during the day to celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary.
Photo by Bobby Ellis, Oct. 26, 2017
Alyssa Dozer, a 1st-grader at Norton Elementary (Jefferson County), smiles as she puts up her class material to line up for lunch. Photo by Bobby Ellis, Oct. 26, 2017
Alyssa Dozer, a 1st-grader at Norton Elementary, smiles as she puts up her class material to line up for lunch.
Photo by Bobby Ellis, Oct. 26, 2017

 

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