Long-term teachers reflect on Norrix throughout the decades


Credit: Gigi Fox

Loy Norrix teacher Rebecca Layton works on her computer. Layton is finishing up her first hour Women’s Studies class.

Gigi Fox, Web Editor

Loy Norrix was founded in 1961 and has changed a lot throughout the years, but how much has it really changed? Definitely the fashion trends: Go-Go Boots and pantsuits do not mix with our current trend of mom jeans and Air Force 1’s, but who knows, styles usually come and go and then back again.

Do the new generation of students really change that much from the older generations, or does time stand still in the halls of high school?

One of the most obvious changes is the advancements in technology and their use in the classroom.

“When I first started teaching everything was about fighting the phone, like it was this evil entity, it’s still very frustrating,” Loy Norrix teacher Rebecca Layton continued, “I still don’t think most students have figured out how to function with a phone. But I also feel that teachers maybe have figured out how to use them in a way that is more productive, and I think students have figured out a way to use them that is more productive. I see students taking pictures of the slides and then taking, with the pictures, taking notes on that or doing things like that that are maybe a little bit more using their phone as a useful tool. Are there still a bunch of kids doing a bunch of dumb stuff on it? Yes. Do they still cause distractions? Yes, but I think phones have been more complicated, students have figured out how to use them in a better way and so have teachers.”

 In the past ten years, cell phones have been made a prominent accessory for almost everyone. According to NPR, as of 2019, 84% of teenagers have a cellphone.

Art teacher Cindy Vanlieu said, “the cell phones are a total distraction, and I think it’s dummy-dumbed the kids to such a degree, and they are totally engaged with their phones. Their phones are more important than anything else and that interrupts a lot.”

English teacher Joe Kitzman feels similar to Vanlieu when it comes to technology. 

“It does seem like students today are more focused on self than others,” said Kitzman. “It’s not really due to the schools and there are other dynamics that play into this idea, but the bombardment of technology use before being able to handle it has been damaging to how we interact with each other. Cell phones, Xbox, any technology, which gives access to everything, has created excessive loneliness, FOMO [fear of missing out], relational arrogance and meanness, immature reactions (drama), and a pseudo connection with others.  Human interactions can never be replaced with technology. Think about how this affects school spirit, participation, focus on academics, belonging, etc. Technology is a tool and when one does not know how to handle a tool, people can get hurt.” 

When watching the classic high school movies like “Pretty in Pink” and “Bring it On,” you always see the stands packed full at football games and every school dance sold out, but in the past few years, school spirit has taken a decline. 

“Before we had a lot of school spirit,” said Vanlieu. “Everyone showed up for the football game, we had a pep assembly, everyone was really into it, having a great deal of fun, the school was real clean. A lot more kids engaged, when I started, there were no cell phones when I started here and classes were smaller. The total population of the amount of kids going here was smaller. It makes a difference now we’re way high this year.”

Theophlis Duckett has been teaching for  52 years at Loy Norrix. Between coaching and teaching, he has seen it all.

“Every year there are new people at every level within a school, except Coach Duckett.  Coach Duckett’s forever!” said Kitzman.

Students’ behavior has changed over time in regards to how they treat adults.

Norrix has changed a lot. Students don’t respect teachers as they used to,” said Duckett. “Yes, no sir, please and thank you, was normal. Now they want to call you bro or feel empowered to believe they can be loud or disrespectful. That is the biggest difference.”

Teachers, especially the ones who have been here for years, are the soul of Norrix. They have had a plethora of students over previous decades, but there were some years that specifically stood out. 

“Coaching Debate and Forensics were good years. Working with a team of individual events required a lot, but the experience was wonderful,” said Kitzman. “I still have some VHS tapes of some of those students. It was great to see students develop life communication skills along with being introduced to students across the state of Michigan. I was also fortunate to work with wonderful coaches from other schools.” 

Loy Norrix teacher Ryan Allen has been teaching for 17 years, and he has a specific year that really stands out as a favorite. 

“In terms of getting to know a class, I’ve felt super connected to 2015, a real specific year because I was like class advisor for two years because someone had left the district and I took over for that eleventh and twelfth grade year,” said Allen. “So I kinda got to know that class like super well just by working with them so closely over the course of those two years: fundraising and dances, planning for prom, so in general you kinda feel that connection, but that one really sticks out of my head.”

As the years go on and teachers go through new kids every trimester, it is easy to spot the differences and similarities throughout the years. 

“I look at you all and I see such amazing awesome things because there are generational changes, there are always going to be generational changes about behaviors or expectations,” Layton continued. “There are certain things that are also just inherent to being a teenager that are always going to be irritating because as teenagers you just don’t do them or you’re annoying about how you do them. It’s part of being a teenager but I also see you guys are better at speaking up for yourself. I was so impressed last year with how many of you would email me and just say ‘Hey, I have a question about this’ or ‘I need something, I have a need.’ That’s something I was never taught to do as a student and as a student I would have never done because that is something in high school we were never trained how to do. You are much more self-aware of how you function as people, your own emotional needs. You are much more aware of other people as well.”