By Norma Richman
“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.” —Lauren Partma, 2020 Teacher of Excellence, Pasadena Unified School District
My Brief Bio—
After attending Sacred Heart Academy, I attended Sonoma State University, where I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice Administration. After that, I came back to SoCal to pursue my Master of Science Degree in Criminal Psychology with an emphasis in Criminal Profiling. While writing my thesis, Pre Trial Publicity and its Effects on Jury Selection, I also pursued my Teaching Credential at Point Loma University. I am currently an 8th grade teacher at McKinley School of the Arts located right here in Pasadena. I teach English and History, as well as run our school’s ASB. Over the past seven years as a McKinley teacher, I have discovered my passion for integrating the Arts into my classroom as a way to help students connect with one another through empathy. I truly believe that Arts are a great humanizer, which helps people to understand and hold space with each other. I volunteer for my school’s Musical Theatre Program as well, which allows me to continue teaching my passion. This past year I won Teacher of Excellence for all of Pasadena Unified School District. This was such an honor, especially since teachers all had to switch gears this year and start teaching remotely—something we were not prepared for at all! It has certainly taught me how to be flexible and pivot when life suddenly changes. Eventually I would love to move my career to a role outside of the classroom and coach other teachers to bring best practices to as many classrooms as possible. I am a huge fan of traveling (particularly to NYC to immerse myself in theatre), hiking, and volunteering for both Huntington Hospital and the Tournament of Roses.
My High Point Experience—
I attended High Point from kindergarten all the way through 8th grade. High Point was so special because of the well-rounded arts and sports programs it exposed students to, in addition to the academics. I was an extremely shy and reserved child (and still am), but I loved the plays we did. Mrs. Brune coming in to the classroom was the highlight of my week. I still remember every single word of the Peter Rabbit play we performed in 1st grade, Johnny Appleseed in 2nd, and A Christmas Carol in 3rd. I believe she instilled in me a love and appreciation for music. She taught me to have an ear for it and is probably why I am often able to remember songs after only hearing them once.
One of the most distinct memories I have at High Point is during the 2nd grade production of Johnny Appleseed. The boy next to me was not doing what he was supposed to be doing and was not on his mark. I was so frustrated by him that I dropped my apple picking basket, went over and picked him up, and placed him in the correct spot, not realizing that, by doing this, I was drawing attention to the both of us and ruining the scene even more! I always think of that moment as my inner ‘future director’ coming out.
Mr. Friedman made a huge impact on me in Middle School. I struggled with math and began to avoid doing it, but Mr. Friedman showed so much patience, working with me during lunch as needed. He eventually made me feel successful. I also remember my third grade teacher, Mrs. Wheat. Her engaging lessons made me want to go to school every morning. One day she asked her husband, a veterinarian, for help: he actually brought a horse on campus to explain about veterinarian medicine. Being a horse lover myself, I was hooked!
Years later I went back briefly to sub for a first grade teacher while I was looking for a full time teaching position. It was great to be back and be on the other side of the school experience.
My Personal Observations and Reflections—
Every single day while I am teaching my own students, I try to make each one of them feel how teachers at High Point made me feel: valued, seen, and heard. My 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Richman, comes to mind. When I really struggled as a student, especially at a school that was so competitive, Mrs. Richman never made me feel like I was less than because of my struggles. Like all teachers at High Point, she was kind, understanding, and still held me to high standards.
I attended Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy in LaCanada, CA, for high school. The transition was so easy. I was used to high standards and working hard. I loved high school so much and had a wonderful group of friends. In fact, I am still best friends with two of the girls I met there. Honestly, college was probably the easiest part of my academic journey because of how High Point and Sacred Heart prepared me. While I saw a lot of my college friends struggle, I thrived in college and even graduated in the top 2% of my graduate class for my Master’s Degree. I am so grateful to High Point for instilling in me confidence, critical thinking skills, curiosity, and honesty.