Garrett’s Blog: The Gift of Teaching

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Long before I was a meteorologist, I was a college student. A student that couldn’t organize thoughts, talk in public, write, or ‘communicate’ thoughts effectively. Speaking in public is more feared than death. For me it meant dry mouth, shaking, rapid speech, constant sweating, and a general lack of confidence in front of people. I used to sweat so much I would roll my sleeves up because I felt so uncomfortable talking; it’s a running joke now when we have tornado warnings because I still can’t stand to wear suit jackets and long-sleeves during intense public speaking.

If you look at my college transcript, you’ll find: Intro to Mass Communications, Intro to Speech, Fundamentals of Public Speaking, & Broadcast Writing. There are also two Journalism Internship courses. I can truly say that I wouldn’t be doing what I do now without the teachers who invested in my life.

My first class in college was taught by Lori Norin, it was Intro to Mass Communications. I was terrible at talking but wanted to pursue a career in broadcasting. That’s a conundrum for a doofus like me.

In that class, I learned the basics of writing and communicating. I learned body language, speech crafting, gesturing, internalizing speeches etc. I also was assigned to do a class project and create an advertising commercial. We made a video commercial for a product called “Fresh Fizz” which featured a cat being put into a microwave and then magically turned into the “Purrfect Drink”. Don’t worry, no cats were actually microwaved, it was all fast edits & shock value to make the 30 second spot more memorable. I’m sure 5NEWS is glad they never hired me for commercial production after reading this. But, I did make an A in Mass Comm.

As I reflect back on that first class, I can think of 3 other classmates who went on to have outstanding careers in communications. A sportscaster, an accomplished photographer, a production assistant for Spielberg. And then there’s me, a meteorologist for KFSM.

The next semester, I took Speech. I wasn’t much better but I’d been spending extra time in Mrs. Norin’s office learning to communicate clearer by watching video tapes of myself and capitalizing on my strengths and growing with my weaknesses. Mrs. Norin was always the person who gave me gentle negative feedback so I could understand where I needed to improve. I was in her office all the time like a sponge trying to learn how to talk so I could one day try to get a job a television.

I was in her office so much, the college hired me to be a part-time Journalism student assistant. I mostly graded papers, but I also learned more about the art of communication, newspaper writing, & broadcast news. Mrs. Norin suggested I do an internship at KFSM, I didn’t think I was qualified and talking to any television personality was incredibly intimidating. She arranged a meeting for me with Bur Edson; Bur gave me tour and accepted me as an intern. He also taught me how to tie a tie, but that’s another story.

Mrs. Norin watched my practice tapes to offer suggestions. I was slowly growing and maturing as a communicator. Another instructor at Westark College, Tom Walton, taught me the art of: storytelling, “slooooowing” down (as he put it), and something I still use today: “The One-Word Weather Forecast”.

Simply put, I wouldn’t be at KFSM without either Mr. Tom Walton or Mrs. Lori Norin; and I certainly wouldn’t be able to communicate effectively. Every time I ran into Mrs. Norin I thanked her for enabling me to be where I am today. The last time I saw her was at Sweetbay Coffee Shop in Fort Smith about 2 years ago. We talked briefly about television, and about my Dad who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer.

Mrs. Norin died last week after a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer at the young age of just 56. Looking back, I wish I would have thanked her more for her investment in my life. I’m sure there are teachers in your life that made the same impact in your career; never pass up the chance to tell them how grateful you are for the investment they made in you.

Behind every successful person, there is an incredible teacher.

Mrs. Norin won’t be at UA-Fort Smith next semester, but you can bet her legacy will live on in the lives of the thousands of students who she helped thrive in life & in their career; and for me, she’ll live on every time I deliver a weather broadcast.