As anchor of “NBC News at Sunrise” and frequent substitute anchor of “The Today Show,” Deborah Norville interviews world leaders, economists, entertainers, and other newsmakers. Her drive to get answers, she says, blossomed about 20 years ago in a 4th grade classroom in Dalton, Ga. Her teacher, Louise Eddings, nurtured her love of learning.
“I was the kid who was always asking questions,” Norville recalls. “Mrs. Eddings’s lessons were so interesting that I always had questions about what she was talking about.”
Norville, 30, recalls fondly that Eddings would respond, “That’s a good question, Debbie. Why don’t you go to the library and look it up and report to us so we’ll all know the answer.”
Norville says that she was a pest with all her questions, and Eddings’s response enabled the teacher to continue with her lessons. But, Norville adds, it also encouraged her curiosity and desire to learn.
“That’s the sign of a good teacher—maybe not to instill curiosity, because kids are naturally curious, but to enable them to express their curiosity. That’s the opening salvo in learning.”
Although Norville claims she was a nuisance at times, Eddings says she welcomed her inquisitiveness. “I always thought ‘why’ was a wonderful word,” says the retired teacher.
“Debbie would take risks, meaning that she would grow,” Eddings says. “She was a neat kid—the kind every teacher likes to get.” But, she adds, Norville “kept you on your toes.”
Today, a student like Norville would be in a gifted-student track, Eddings says. But at the time there were no such programs. Individual teachers responded to the best and brightest in their own way. Some may have occupied them with busywork, but not Eddings. “I had to keep groping for things that were special for these kids,” she explains. When her students completed their work, they could watch filmstrips in the back of the room or work on murals. She developed individualized projects, often involving additional library books. “I felt I had to challenge them and not bore them with busywork,” says Eddings.
Eddings says she liked to send Norville and the other students to the library to research questions so they could continue to learn. Sometimes, she admits, she simply couldn’t answer a student’s question.
“I was trying to do the most I could for all the kids to help them reach their potential, and Debbie had a lot of potential,” Eddings says. “I was trying to inspire the children and help them see that they could be anything they wished to be. I used to say frequently they could reach for the stars. Debbie got her star.”
A version of this article appeared in the September 01, 1989 edition of Teacher as Deborah Norville, Network Newscaster