During her time at Carthage, one of Norma Mortimer’s ’70 professors stressed the importance of the interconnectedness of people. Ms. Mortimer took that lesson to heart and has tried to give back to the thousands of students she has taught as both a music and English teacher.
“I have mentored other teachers and administrators, done music clinics, guest conducted, written arrangements, published — always with the idea that perhaps what I do can help someone in their own search for empowerment.”
What have you enjoyed most about your career?
“I have been privileged to work with approximately 9500 students over the past 48 years. No two days have ever been the same. I love the variety of my days and appreciate the growth of my students. While I began as an instrumental music teacher, I finish in English. Along the way I also earned a teaching certificate in Gifted and Talented.”
How did Carthage prepare you?
“While there were days I didn’t appreciate the demands of a liberal arts focus, the fact that I have a degree from Carthage means more to me each year. Professor Don Colton, my music history teacher, demanded that we know not just about music history, but about political, art, theater — the big ideas of whatever era we were studying. Anything in the library was fair game, and he meant it. It taught me to think critically and to think in broad sweeps of history.
Moreover, the service aspect — the giving back to the community — has been vital. Our monthly trips to Southern Colony taught me valuable lessons about differences that have carried me well in working with our special students.”
How has your liberal arts education benefitted you?
“For me, this was about lifelong learning, about looking at issues in a variety of ways and being resourceful in my approach to issues in the classroom. The urban classroom demands this of its teachers every day, and the attitude of the liberal arts graduate toward learning and thinking carries one through. I did not know I would enjoy teaching AP Language, but once I got into it, those skills I learned through my studies at Carthage empowered my teaching.”
Tips for current Carthage students:
“Get involved. Get involved in the community at large as well as the Carthage community. Take advantage of everything the campus has to offer. Learn to think and learn to study — those skills have taken me far. One professor told us that we don’t have to like everyone we tour with, but we do have to love them. I haven’t liked everyone I have encountered, but the spiritual grounding I found at Carthage has helped me to love them.”
Favorite Carthage memories:
“Sophomore year, one of the fraternities built a beautiful arch across the south entrance, and during the night, someone set it on fire. Since the women were stuck in the dorms (it was after hours), the men worked all night to rebuild it with the tissue we tossed down to them from the dorm windows. It was a great example of how we recover (I know this was in the yearbook, what maybe 67-68).
Our Brass Choir trip to Germany the summer of 1969 was amazing. Imagine being able to accept the congratulations for the moon landing from the German families we stayed with; to see the Berlin Wall sans graffiti and with some intimidating DDR guards; to stand near the summit of the Zugspitze. I would not have done it had I not been a part of the music department. I told a student recently that I would be neither the person nor the teacher I am had I gone to any other school.”