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Jon Shorter named BEA Teacher of the Year

Jon Shorter, a fourth-grade teacher at Horace May Elementary School, smiles after receiving the Bemidji Education Association's Teacher of the Year award Wednesday morning. The Bemidji School District held its all-employee gathering in the Bemidji High School auditorium where several staff and faculty members were recognized. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

For Kate Pearson, teacher at Horace May Elementary School, it was never a question of "if" her colleague would receive this award; it was a matter of "when."

Pearson presented Jon Shorter with the Bemidji Education Association's Teacher of the Year Award Wednesday morning at the Bemidji School District's all-employee gathering in the Bemidji High School auditorium.

Shorter is a fourth-grade teacher at Horace May Elementary School.

"I am totally honored," Shorter said after receiving his award.

Shorter recalled what he felt like as a new teacher 31 years ago, overwhelmed by the needs of students and the various teaching assignments he was given.

"I was lucky enough to have wonderful mentors, terrific administrator and dozens of peers that helped me grow," Shorter said. "I realize that you can't stop and have to keep growing every day."

Thinking back on his continuous career as an elementary school teacher, Shorter shared some wisdom for new teachers or students considering going into the profession.

"I think you have to be so eager and desirous of doing the best you can every day," Shorter said. "You can't sit back and say I did a great job yesterday. You have to ask, 'What can I do today to improve myself?' And you must never give that up."

Beyond the classroom, Shorter is an avid outdoor recreation enthusiast and participates in numerous cross-country skiing and running events. He is also a sail boat instructor for Bemidji State University's physical education department in the summer.

"It's very fun for me to teach at the university and having kids at the other end of the spectrum," he said. "It's so challenging and rewarding to see people grasp new things. I measure my success by seeing how successful my students can be."

Letters nominating Shorter described him as a man who lived what he taught, specifically citing his commitment to promoting a healthy lifestyle and helping students to stay organized.

"My big thing is I have fun every day with my students," Shorter said. "We laugh and dance together. We sing together."

Today, Shorter said he feels he is learning more than when he was a first-year teacher. He is also convinced students today are taking on more responsibilities than ever before.

"I'm one of those people who are convinced our kids today are better than ever," Shorter said. "I think we're going in a terrific direction with all our kids."

Shorter said he became a teacher because he considered the profession was the most rewarding job he could imagine.

"I just have always loved working with kids and with people," he said. "I love being a teacher. I can't ever imagine retiring. Every day it's fun."

The BEA presented Shorter with an engraved plaque and keychain, a gift certificate to a local restaurant and a floral arrangement. As the current BEA Teacher of the Year, Shorter is eligible to apply for the Minnesota Teacher of the Year Award.

The other nominees for BEA Teacher of the Year were Tyler Kondos, physical education teacher at Horace May Elementary; Sue Nokleby, district school nurse; Eve Sumsky, music teacher at Northern Elementary; and Jeff Wade, fifth-grade teacher at Northern Elementary.