Things you may not know about math teacher Jamie Norton: He was president of his college fraternity (he attended Kenyon College in Ohio), spent a year of his life working as a woodcutter (riding a bike with a chainsaw and fuel tank attached), and trained himself as a juggler for the theater. Oh, and has run two marathons.
Born on Martha’s Vineyard and raised on Bayes Norton Farm, Mr. Norton is now poised to retire and leave his teaching legacy at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS). After 19 years of teaching Algebra I and II, Advanced Placement and regular Pre-Calculus, Calculus, and Geometry, Mr. Norton never imagined he’d end his career in the midst of a school closure due to a global pandemic. He had sent in his letter of retirement before the outbreak, never imagining that he’d end his career teaching through a screen.
“This spring has been harder, spending so much time on the computer, and only seeing my students for an hour a week,” said Mr. Norton. “I will remember it most for missing out on the quality time with my classes.”
Dressed every school day in his signature ironed white shirt and bow tie, and always in shorts, Mr. Norton has consistently arrived at the high school ready to teach. In the math office, his desk, much like his outgoing and positive personality, is what stands out.
“He definitely does not keep an organized desk, but he always seems to know where everything is,” said fellow math and physics teacher Mike Lavers. Mr. Lavers met Mr. Norton on his first day teaching on the Vineyard, and since then has worked with and learned from him.
“Jamie is a strong part of the personality of the math department, and will be missed around the halls,” said Mr. Lavers. “His kindness and the quirks we’ll remember fondly aren’t just limited to school hours.”
Math teacher Kris Chvatal said, “I’ll remember Jamie as someone who walks like a whaling captain, can carry a 100-pound hay bale in each hand like a lunchbox, is kind to all, and likes to raise animals. He’s also more patient with students than any other teacher I’ve known.”
Fellow math teacher Mary Lee Carlomagno will remember how Mr. Norton “always makes great homemade carrot cake for all our events,” and how a large number of staff members rely on egg deliveries from his family’s farm, Norton Farm, which he runs alongside his wife, English Language Learners department chair Dianne Norton, and their two sons, Dougie and Jonathan.
While math is a subject some students struggle to develop an interest in, many of his former students remember their time in his classroom fondly. Former students noted the easygoing pace of his classes, and the one-on-one attention and guidance Mr. Norton gives his students.
Senior Juan Sancez Roa said, “I think he is a really great person, and he’s taught me a bunch of calculus topics, and although I am sad I couldn’t be in class with him these past two months, I will be more sad to see him stop teaching.”
When asked if he had a particularly memorable teaching experience, Mr. Norton said, “My most memorable unit was the first time I was teaching conic sections to my Pre-Calculus students. They were so excited to recognize the similarities and differences between circles, parabolas, ellipses, and hyperbolas that they made posters pointing these out. These posters hung on my classroom walls for a decade.”
After retirement, Mr. Norton plans to focus on what he considers to be the two most important parts of his life: family and farming.
“My favorite hobby is farming,” he said. “It will be nice to be able to spend more time farming, and appreciating my family too.”
He also wants to leave this advice to new teachers: “Get involved in school life. Go to the games, watch the plays, learn all the names of the support staff, especially the custodians. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you have a question.”
New teachers should heed this advice. If there’s anyone who knows what it’s like to add meaningfully to one’s community, it’s Jamie Norton.