student teacher returns to her roots

Laurie LyonEvery morning this past year when Norwich University education major Laurie Lyon reported to work, it felt a little like going home. For her student teaching assignment, the 2001 Northfield High School graduate observed and taught a class of sixth-graders at her alma mater, Northfield Middle School, under her former sixth-grade teacher, Nancy Allen.

Lyon, whose last day in Allen's classroom was May 6, recently received the prestigious Morin Smith Award, a $4,000 honorarium given each spring at Norwich University to the graduating senior who has shown the most promise as a prospective schoolteacher.

Presented each April, the award is the legacy of Morin Smith, a longtime member of the faculty at Norwich who died in 1995. Selection committee member Jim Segar '76, a student of Smith's in the 1970's, felt that Lyon could not have been more deserving of the honor. "Her recommendations and application were outstanding," said Segar. "She is going to be an incredible teacher."

In accepting her award, Lyon acknowledged the many teachers, friends and family members who had supported and inspired her along the way, with special mention of the late Milt "Doc" Hammond, who passed away on April 14, 2005, after a courageous battle with cancer. A psychology and education professor at Norwich since 1987, Hammond served as Lyon's "advisor and dear friend ... and was a great role model for all his students, especially future teachers."

Many of Lyon's students were present at the award ceremony, where one of them read a letter the class had written to the nominating committee. In the letter, the students expressed their full-fledged support of Lyon's candidacy. "We think she will be an outstanding teacher. She is kind, willing to help, and consistent with her expectations ... we couldn't have made it through the year without her," the letter reads.

Lyon and AllenUpon learning that her students had nominated her, Lyon expressed utter surprise and delight. "I had no idea they were going to do this, or that they were even aware that there was such an award," she said. "They announced it one morning during current events, and took me completely by surprise!"

A double major in psychology and education, Lyon noted that her time spent in the sixth grade had been her "most valuable learning and teaching experience.

"I was tremendously surprised by what my 17 sixth-graders taught me, things that I could never have learned in a college classroom setting," she said.

By all accounts, Lyon was not the only one who benefited greatly from the experience. "The kids have just gained so much by having her in the classroom," Allen said. "It's been really positive. To have Norwich have their students come and do their student teaching in our school is a good collaboration for everybody."

Describing her teaching philosophy as "student-centered", Lyon believes that providing students with an education is only one aspect of a teacher's overall responsibility. "They need warmth, love, kindness and encouragement," Lyon said. "Without these, they cannot concentrate on doing the best that they can."

6th grade class with Lyon