Everyone has a story and behind Stewart school principal Linda Norton’s stands two generations of women who inspired her to become an educator, a succession of mentors who helped pave the way for a career in education and a calling she could not ignore.
Norton’s grandmother and mother believed in the overriding principles of strength, determination and the value of education. Her grandmother Agnes Jones’ plight as an immigrant left a lasting impression while Norton’s mother Mickey Nortons' struggles as a single mom of six left an indelible mark.
“My mother has been an incredible inspiration,” shared Norton.
Norton’s trajectory to a career in education was founded on her family’s principles and her love of children, although teaching was not her first choice. Norton dreamed of becoming a pediatrician which was derailed by her aversion to blood.
A Garden City High School graduate, Norton shelved the idea of becoming a teacher due to a stalled job market during her college years at Villanova University.
So Norton majored in economics and landed on Wall Street, though there was little job satisfaction. After three years, she quit her job to pursue a Masters in education.
Norton volunteered at the literacy center at Stratford school where fifth grade teacher Leigh Dowden became a mentor. This mentorship was just the beginning of how a succession of gifted educators helped develop Norton’s talents.
Dowden was impressed with Norton’s ability to build lasting relationships.
“She never forgets a name or a face and when former students see her they are genuinely happy,” Dowden said.
Maria Locopo, a beloved Homestead teacher, was another mentor who made a significant impact on her life.
Norton taught first, fourth and fifth grade at Homestead, Stratford and Hemlock schools. After 12 years of teaching, she moved on to administration at another mentor’s suggestion.
In 1995 she became assistant principal and three years later principal of Hemlock school, which had been closed due to low enrollment. For the last five years she has been principal at Stewart school.
As an administrator for the last nine years, she is a vibrant member of administration. Superintendent Dr. Robert Feirsen has cited her deep roots in the community as an asset to the district.
“She is deeply committed to her students, sensitive to the concerns of parents and very knowledgeable about best practices for teaching and learning,” he said.
Though she feels she can reach more children as a principal, she does miss the special connection developed in the classroom and all the “light bulb” moments that go with it.
“A teacher becomes a teacher for their love of learning and children," Norton said. “It’s a calling you know in your heart.”