ACCESS Teacher Testimonial: Deborah Norwood

The love of educating students runs deep within so many Alabama teachers. Even in retirement, many educators still dedicate their time to shaping young lives. 

Deborah Norwood is one of those educators. After retiring from her 23-year math and home economics teaching career in Pelham, she was offered a position as a facilitator for ACCESS Virtual Learning. 

“ACCESS has allowed me to continue working with students, which I really enjoy,” Norwood said.

A colleague at Pelham introduced Norwood to ACCESS – Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators and Students Statewide. This Alabama Department of Education initiative provides free, virtual Advanced Placement, elective and credit recovery courses to middle and high school students. 

ACCESS facilitators oversee students in a classroom while they complete their virtual schoolwork. 

“As a facilitator, you monitor the students and try to make sure that they are doing their work and staying on task,” Norwood said. “I would also keep track of their grades and help if they had any questions.”

After facilitating for a few years, Norwood became an ACCESS teacher in 2013. On and off for the past decade, she has taught various levels of algebra and nutrition and wellness to students from across central Alabama. 

“I hope that I have had a positive influence on the students that I have had in class and hope that I have been able to help them to better understand the subject matter,” Norwood said.

One of the most meaningful experiences she had as an ACCESS teacher was working with a student who was struggling in an algebra class. Norwood tried various ways to teach a concept to her student with little success. It took some time, but the reward of the student finally understanding was worth all the work.

“Finally, there was a breakthrough, and it was like this student was a different person,” she said. “They began to understand, and things got easier. You could almost see a different person in the work they were turning in.” 

Norwood said ACCESS helps students in small schools stay on track for graduation. She has seen firsthand how limited resources and faculty can impact the courses offered at schools, but ACCESS offers students another option to get their required classes completed.

“I was facilitator at a school with only one math, science, English and social studies teacher for the high school. A student might have to wait a whole year in order to make up a course that they failed, and that put them even farther behind,” Norwood said. 

In addition, she says ACCESS is a great supplement to student’s regular course of study, giving them the opportunity to take electives and advanced courses not offered at their school. 

“I had a student who took two years of French, two years of German and two years of Spanish through ACCESS. We did not have a foreign language teacher at the school. Without ACCESS he would not have been able to do this,” she said.

She sees several benefits to ACCESS for students, teachers, facilitators and administrators, but the main advantage is getting to work with people from across the state to broaden the education that students are getting in Alabama.