Red Staplers and Retired School Teachers, Both are Better When They are Working

by Nathan Dorton

By: Tammy Davis //

Palmetto Prep, a program designed to help high school graduates become eligible to play college football, had built a strong athletic program.  They had good coaches, adequate facilities, and great recruiters.  The athletic component was strong, but they struggled with the academic piece.  They needed a teacher but finding the right person for the job posed a challenge.

Behind every good man is a very, good woman.  Leave it to a coach’s wife to find the perfect person for the job.  Head offensive coach and recruiting coordinator Nathan Dorton’s wife was a co-worker of Allison Norwood, a retired high school English teacher.  Mrs. Dorton listened to Norwood talk of her love of her students and how she missed the classroom.  Only a retired school teacher comments that she is sad that her red stapler sits in a drawer unused.

Norwood listened to Dorton talk about her husband’s program and their need for help on the education front.  Palmetto Prep needed a teacher.  Norwood needed to teach.  The rest is history.

The story almost seems too good to be true, but that’s when you know it’s a perfect fit, one of those meant-to-be situations.  To hear Norwood tell the tale, it’s almost like her whole career was preparing her for her work with the boys at Palmetto Prep.  Her days at Lexington One, Two, and Five made her uniquely qualified for the latest chapter in her life.  It’s a chapter she clearly enjoys.  Palmetto Prep is equally tickled with their latest addition to the team.

Before Norwood came along, Palmetto Prep sent their players to Midlands Tech for academic support.  That wasn’t working for anyone.  Leadership longed to bring everything in-house.  The boys needed more structure and encouragement.  They needed someone to care about the players. Norwood does that in spades.  She lights up talking about the different players who “got offered” during the year.  For non-sports folks, that means they will be able to follow their dream of playing football at the college level.

Athletic Director Wes Dorton (father to Nathan) is quick to point out that dream wouldn’t have happened without Norwood.  All of the Palmetto Prep staff, from top to bottom, know how lucky they are to have Norwood on staff.  “I’ll fire coaches before I let her go,” Senior Dorton admits.  Norwood and Palmetto Prep are a match made in heaven.  The coaching staff knows football and recruiting.  They know how to get the most out of the boys on the field.  Norwood is an experienced, master teacher.   She knows how to push the boys in the classroom.  The results speak for themselves.   This year, 38 of 42 boys have been offered scholarships.  That 90% success rate is exactly where Palmetto Prep wants to be.

On paper, MTC met the academic needs of the players at Palmetto Prep, but something was missing.  The boys needed a relationship with a teacher.  That’s what good teachers do -they form relationships, they connect.  The boys needed one person who knew them and understood them.  They needed a Ms. Norwood in their lives.  Norwood is a testament to the importance of a good, caring teacher.  She describes her Palmetto Prep classroom as bare bones – no Smart Board, no Chromebooks or i-Pads.  Wes Dorton is quick to jump in to say he will get her whatever she needs, but Norwood doesn’t need those things to get results.  She has all any good teacher needs.  She has motivated students who want to succeed.  She has support and oversight from Palmetto Prep coaching staff.  And, most importantly, she has a teacher’s heart with years of experience under her belt.  Norwood doesn’t need fancy, high-tech equipment.  She is exactly where she’s meant to be.  She’s got her red stapler, and she’s glad it’s not sitting in a desk drawer anymore.

Tammy Davis is a freelance writer who loves meeting people like Allison Norwood who are making a difference in the lives of others.  If you know a teacher in a non-traditional setting who is doing good things, send an e-mail to