Kyle and Hannah Norby
Maricopa High School has two Norbys on staff. Kyle teaches photography while his wife instructs students in culinary arts. This photo was taken by one of Kyle’s students, Brian Petersheim Jr.

Once a self-described slacker, Kyle Norby is the latest Maricopa High School graduate to come back and teach at the school.

He was hired as the photography instructor in the Career & Technical Education Department, which finds its teachers in the trades. Norby picked up his work experience at InMaricopa, where he was the multimedia journalist for two years.

Coming back to MHS as a staff member has offered new perspective — especially for the students.

“They think I’m more relatable. Some of them have siblings who were in my graduating class,” Norby said. “They tell me, ‘You’re young. You’re so old, but you’re young.’”

They have found common ground in more than video games and music. Some of the teenagers feel comfortable talking to him about personal issues and not just class assignments.

Norby graduated from MHS in 2014. His wife Hannah (Herrera) is a 2016 graduate. She studied culinary in the CTE department, winning a national gold medal and a scholarship to culinary school in Las Vegas. She started teaching at MHS in 2018.

“I think it helps my teaching, knowing I’ve gone through the program,” Hannah Norby said. “I know what these kids are going to do, especially when I talk to them about opportunities that they have. They can look at me and say, ‘Oh, wow. She got a scholarship in these competitions. I can do that.’ I think it’s inspirational to the kids.”

OFF TO VEGAS

The Norbys are engrained in Maricopa. Kyle arrived from New Mexico in 2006. He met Hannah in geometry class at MHS six years later.

“I was a junior in geometry because I wasn’t too great at math, and she was a freshman in geometry because she was smart and ahead,” he said.

They both were lifeguards at Copper Sky Aquatic Center. Kyle said he was a bit aimless in school until late in his junior year. He realized he needed to find direction. He liked graphic design and he was a member of the film club. He joined theater tech and discovered an affinity for sound editing.

After graduating, he started work on an associate degree in graphic design at Central Arizona College while waiting for Hannah to graduate in 2016. They married and followed her scholarship to Las Vegas. His career decisions are directly tied to hers.

While studying at the culinary institute, she landed a job as lifeguard at Wyndham Grand Desert Resort and eventually moved to the kitchen. Meanwhile, Kyle worked in the activities center while taking classes at the College of Southern Nevada, “a class or two at a time because it was a little expensive.”

As much as they liked Vegas, they were homesick for friends and family. MHS culinary teacher Greg Mahon kept tabs on them and looked for opportunities for Hannah once she completed her coursework at the institute. When the job in the CTE culinary department opened, Mahon reached out.

“I applied. I was kind of winging it, and then I got an interview,” she said. “Then I got the job and had to move back home within 11 days.”

Kyle Norby MHS teacher man
Kyle Norby, a 2014 graduate, returned to his alma mater in October to teach photography. He has students in class and at home. Photo by Brian Petersheim Jr.

A MARICOPA RETURN

Kyle stayed in Las Vegas a few more months to tie up loose ends and pack up the apartment through the end of the lease. While she worked at MHS, he landed the job at InMaricopa, putting to use his skills in videography, sound editing, graphic design and photography.

Hannah encouraged him to go back to CAC and finish his degree, which he did in July. To be a CTE instructor he needed at least an associate degree and real-world experience. That lined up just in time for veteran photography teacher Chuck King to retire in September this year.

Though he has not been gone long from MHS, Kyle still sees the differences from his time as a student. He sees a much more positive place.

He said the students are much more into “the whole high school experience” and there are many more clubs, including an LGBTQ club, with bigger memberships.

“I think they’re just pouring a lot more heart into it,” he said. “It’s nice to see the inclusivity with everybody.”

Hannah has also noticed much more school pride on campus. She noted the dramatic increase in the number of students, resulting in packed hallways. The current senior class is double the 300 in her graduating class.

When she was a student, the class had a goal of creating a garden of herbs and vegetables. That did not happen. By the time she had returned as teacher, the garden boxes were completed but not planted. She quickly put them to use. They both get a kick out working with staff members who taught them, including those who proved most impactful. Mahon is still Hannah’s mentor as he was for her sister Bri, but now he is a colleague.

Kyle said the MHS teacher who had the biggest influence on him, especially now as an instructor, was Kevin Piquette in theater tech.

“He trusted us with a lot of different things,” he said. “He gave you responsibilities, and you wanted to make him proud. I love theater tech and working with the drama kids.”

Hannah Norby in the kitchen
Chef Hannah Norby chops an apple in the high school kitchen. She is a 2016 MHS graduate. Photo by Kyle Norby

‘I SEE MYSELF IN A LOT OF MY KIDS’

Now, he enjoys giving his students opportunities to discover their talents because he recalls not quite knowing what he wanted to do for a career.

“it’s nice seeing the kids finding themselves,” he said. “I know at that age, I was kind of a slacker and I didn’t know what I was about. I see myself in a lot of my kids. I didn’t know I’d like graphic design or theater tech. I didn’t know I cared about sound design. It’s just giving kids a way to express themselves that they might not have thought about and just having that creative freedom to just have fun with it and make up assignments, find out stuff that’s fun as well as educational.”

Hannah is a hands-on learner and a hands-on teacher. That helps connect with teens.

“They’re funny. They’re learning. They’re just at a weird time in life, but I think it’s an interesting time in life to be teaching them,” she said. “I really couldn’t teach little kids, but I love the teenagers. I just love the hands-on teaching. The kids take away so much more. They’re more engaged. They love it.”

For CTE classes, instructors teach the state standards and incorporate professional skills development, with required math and science thrown in. Though their classes are in very different areas, the Norbys want to set up their students to shine outside the classroom.

That means helping the culinary students to prepare meals for community members during special events. It means helping photography students have their work seen in the community, taking staff and senior photos and getting published.

“The main goal is to give them confidence to explore and be creative,” Kyle said. “A lot of that goes down to having people being able to see their name. That’s a big thing, especially for the first-year kids.”

It’s a matter of showing students the avenues available. The Norbys came back to Maricopa because they love Maricopa, not because they couldn’t make it out in the world. They want their students to understand their choices don’t have to be limited, either.

“It’s their responsibility to take these opportunities and go as far as they want with them,” Hannah Norby said.