photo by Dan Andrews.
Norwood Elementary students line up to receive instruction from Northwest Middle steppers.


By David Klein
Norwood Elementary students are stepping into a new activity. Some students at the school learned about an extracurricular activity that enriches lives.
The Northwest Middle School step team put on a mini step camp for Norwood Elementary students last Monday through Wednesday 4:30 to 5:15. Tiffany Flood, step coach of Northwest Middle School, led the team in showing Norwood students aspects of the step program.
“It’s a partnership between the two schools,” Liz Thacker, Site Resource Coordinator for Norwood Elementary said. Thacker provides small group instructions, activities, dinner, and is the coordinator for all of those after school activities for Norwood students and three other schools.
Flood said the process to putting on the step camp began when she received an email from a social worker. “He asked me to come over and have a demonstration for the elementary kids,” she said. It occurred to her in her emails with the officer that they could do a minicamp for Norwood Elementary students and teach them “what we do”.
Flood said the steps are modeled after the universities’ Greek fraternity and sorority programs. “For step, you have to get the whole body thing,” Flood said. “You have to make rhythms and beats with your body,” she emphasized. She said the steps don’t have specific names, they are named after whichever student starts the step.
Flood also teaches seventh grade math at Northwest Middle School. “I think I’m a little more lenient in the classroom than I am with the girls (step team),” she said. “I’m very demanding and we practice a lot.”
Jayla Chandler, an eighth grader, said of the step team, “It gives me something to do. It’s something I enjoy.” Chandler said she’s trying to get into organizations that do step past middle school.
Flood said she started her step teams at Norwood as something for students who didn’t make other teams to participate in. Flood started coaching step teams eight years ago. She said a group of students came to her and asked if she could sponsor them. The principal said to her that they would need to have practice “so many days a week.” After a series of practices with that first team, sometimes practicing until 9, Flood said the principal watched the team and after a little while told her, “You’re ready. This is it.” Flood has been coaching step ever since.
“I’ve taken a lot of girls who’ve had behavior issues, and they’ve changed completely,” Flood said of coaching step. “They’ve become great students. We have parents that come to the basketball games often to watch them perform. We get a lot of praise,” she added.
Flood said her step team has participated in the Knox County Parks and Recreation Team Premier Step Show. “We were one of the few teams that competed in Knox County,” she said. However, “We didn’t compete this year though,” she said. She also coaches little league cheerleaders, called the Baby Road Runners; they cheer at Austin East recreation games.
The main emphasis on the step camp is an orientation for the Norwood Elementary students to learn about extracurricular activities and ways to enrich their lives. “It’s a great way for the middle school to mentor little ones to see older students and some of the things and options that are available,” Thacker said.