Many students at Norris Elementary School think their principal, Lynn Cato, sleeps there.
They think she lives on the second floor, along with Mr. Norris’ ghost.
The idea makes Cato laugh. Of course she doesn’t live there, but she does spend a lot of time at the school.
Cato arrives before the children do and stays long after they leave. Her car is often parked in front of the school on Saturdays.
There’s really no place she’d rather be. Her heart is there, invested in the 515 students in her care.
“This is not an 8-to-4 job,” she said. “It’s a demanding job mentally and emotionally, because you want what’s best for the children. But it’s also a very rewarding job when you see who they become.”
Cato knew at 5 years old that she wanted to be a teacher, due in part to her kindergarten teachers, Kate Lucky and Sunny Walden.
“Every day when they came in that room, if they were not having a great day, they deserve Oscars, because you never would have known as a child. They made learning fun,” she said.
She loved to learn and said she was the student who always had a book in hand and pushed herself to make A’s.
After graduating from Thomson High School in 1987, she earned her bachelor’s from Augusta State, her master’s from Troy State, her Education Specialist degree from Augusta State, and in 2010 her doctorate from Georgia Southern.
Most of her teaching career was spent teaching at middle and high schools. A few of her administrators saw her leadership potential and encouraged her to consider advancing to an administrator’s role.
She realized that though she could influence hundreds of children as a teacher, as an administrator she could influence thousands.
Cato served for seven years as assistant principal of curriculum at Thomson High School before stepping into the principal’s position at Norris Elementary last year.
She said the best part of her job is watching her students become successful.
“The greatest part is watching them succeed, and in the end, seeing them go across the stage and literally watching the expressions on their faces change as their names are called,” she said.
On the other hand, the worst part of her job is telling a child that he or she will not be promoted or will not graduate.
She feels her job as an educator is to prepare them for whatever is next in their lives, whether that be college, technical school, military, or straight to employment.
“We want everybody to be a productive citizen, wherever they are,” she said.
Outside school, Cato said she loves to bake, cross stitch, work on puzzles and shop with friends.
She is an active member of Faith Baptist Church, where she teaches children’s church and Awanas.
“I don’t have a lot of time outside of school,” she said. “I spend a lot of time here.”