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### Impacting Future Students: An Elementary Education Graduate’s Personal Journey

Passion for Teaching and Cultural Transition

Matthew Norris, a senior major in elementary education, exhibits a profound passion for teaching that goes beyond mere enthusiasm. Despite the challenges of adjusting to a new country, Norris found inspiration in his mother, a dedicated teacher who influenced his career choice.

Norris attributes his decision to pursue teaching to his mother’s impactful role. He expressed gratitude for her guidance, especially as he initially lacked familiarity with the American culture and educational system upon his arrival in the country. Having his mother teach at his high school provided him with a sense of comfort and clarity amidst the cultural shift.

Witnessing his mother’s positive influence on peers and experiencing her ability to simplify complex concepts motivated Norris to follow a teaching path. He recognized the immense fulfillment in shaping the next generation, setting his resolve to make a difference in students’ lives and beyond.

Educational Journey and Cultural Contrasts

Norris’s educational odyssey transcends geographical boundaries, originating in Uganda where educational opportunities were limited, particularly beyond primary education. Coming from humble beginnings, with financial constraints hindering access to a comprehensive education, Norris faced significant challenges in pursuing academic advancement.

Despite the scarcity of educational resources in Uganda, Norris’s adoption in 2012 paved the way for a new chapter in Alabama. However, adjusting to the American educational landscape posed its own set of obstacles, as he navigated a vastly different culture and academic environment. The support of his adoptive family played a pivotal role in his adaptation and academic progress.

Academic Pursuits at UAB and Future Aspirations

Choosing the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) for his elementary education studies was a strategic decision influenced by its proximity to his community and the opportunities it offered to impact the local area. As he nears graduation in April 2024, Norris reflects on the transformative experiences during his cooperative teaching placements, which reshaped his perspective on the teaching profession.

His interactions with dedicated educators emphasized the holistic role of teachers in students’ lives, extending beyond imparting knowledge to providing mentorship and support. Norris envisions leveraging his unique background and life story as a teaching tool, fostering a student-centric approach that acknowledges individual struggles and diverse experiences.

Embracing the ethos of meeting students where they are, Norris aims to cultivate a supportive and understanding learning environment, drawing from his own challenges and triumphs. His commitment to taking students’ education seriously and acknowledging their personal journeys underscores his dedication to making a meaningful impact as an educator.