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Morris Area Teachers of the Year: Tim Cannon

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Tim Cannon used to spend a lot of his youth around the creeks and lakes near his home, hunting, fishing or just exploring the natural landscape.

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His outdoor expeditions shaped his life early, so much so that he knew even as an elementary school student that he wanted to devote his life to something scientific, maybe in teaching, but also possibly a job with the Department of Natural Resources.

Then, in Cannon's sophomore year at Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg High School, he took classes from a man he called "an excellent biology teacher," the late Tim Kennedy. Cannon's career path was set.

"That's when I made up my mind," Cannon said. "I wanted to do those same kinds of things and have that kind of influence on students."

That he has. Cannon smiles proudly when he talks about former students who tell him he was their influence in choosing careers in teaching or the sciences.

And it's why Cannon, along with fellow Morris Area teacher Lori Boettcher, was selected by their peers as the district's 2009-2010 Teachers of the Year.

It's the second time Cannon has won the award -- he also was Teacher of the Year in 1996 -- and it might not be the last, given his drive as a teacher and coach.

"In order to make students work hard, you have to work hard," he said.

After graduating from KMS in 1985, Cannon enrolled at Jamestown College and studied education, biology, chemistry, health and physical education.

In 1990, he took his first teaching job in Fairmount, N.D., which is just across the border from Campbell, Minn. He met his wife, Vicki, in college, and they married in 1991. They now have four children, Cody, 17, Marcus, 15, Kindra, 12, and Katie, 10.

In 1993, Cannon had an interview set up in Morris, but he also had a chance at a job in Springfield, Minn. Cannon wanted to check out the Springfield job, too, but added with a smile that then-Morris Area Principal Mike Martin "had a way of putting things."

There wasn't much doubt Cannon was going to end up staying in Morris.

"It's the right-size school and I'm teaching science," Cannon said. "I just really enjoy that. We've got a lot of great teachers and a lot of great community members. There's a lot of support here."

He started out teaching Advanced Fitness, chemistry, environmental chemistry, and 8th grade health and phy. ed.

Cannon's plate became even more full over the years, with more phy. ed. classes, life, earth and environmental sciences, biology and human anatomy. Now, he's teaching 9th grade physical science and chemistry for juniors and seniors.

In addition to his teaching duties, Cannon coaches 7th grade football in the fall, 8th grade basketball in the winter and may help out with track this spring.

That work ethic keeps teaching fresh and his students interested. For example, Cannon regularly culls the news for current events that relate to the study and core principles of science.

"Part of it is trying to incorporate new things in science, but at the same time you need to be grounded in the basics," Cannon said.

His approach incorporates all aspects of education.

"It's really fun when (current events) are right on the chapter we're studying," he said. "Whenever possible, you try to relate it to something in life. You take something conceptual and boil it down to the concrete. It gets you reading and gets you interested. As my dad used to say, if you can read, you can do anything."

And when the light goes on in a student, that's when Cannon receives his greatest gift as a teacher.

"When students struggle, and then they get it, it's fun to see the excitement -- 'I get it!'," he said. "Especially in chemistry, that's when you gain confidence and you want to do more and more."

Cannon has more to do as he prepares his paperwork for the state Teacher of the Year contest. The application is due Jan. 19 and the award winner will be announced in May.

But the honor he's already received is adequate validation, he said.

"Peers honoring you, that's extra special," Cannon said. "They know what it's about. When they look at it and say, 'Who's doing something extra?' That's nice."

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