Canon retiring after 21 years in LHISD

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Carolyn Canon is retiring this spring after 21 years of teaching in Liberty Hill ISD. (Christine Bolaños Photo)

By Christine Bolaños

After 32 years in education, 21 of which she has spent in Liberty Hill ISD, instructional technologist Carolyn Canon is retiring.

She has taught math and computer-based courses at middle schools in Round Rock and Liberty Hill ISDs.

Canon will miss her colleagues and her students, especially, those moments when that imaginary light bulb lights up above their heads.

“That spark when they learn something and they’re proud of themselves and they’re proud of what they’ve done,” Canon said. “That window of their success cannot be replaced.”

During the course of her career, she has seen many of her students become enlightened when they understand a concept that was previously challenging to them.

“I had a student in eighth grade math at Chisholm Trail Middle School who was not a strong math student at all,” Canon recalled.

That student’s life changed when she discovered she understood integers, or, positive and negative numbers.

“She invited me to her graduation and her wedding,” Canon shared. “It’s those special moments where they understand their world in a different way.”

She also remembered another experience she had with a Liberty Hill Junior High student who was not a fan of using computers.

“He was working so hard and he had a project to finish,” Canon said. “So I let him come in during lunch and we made a couple of changes to his program and it ran.”

The nearly 6-foot-tall eighth grade student mastered the art of animation on PowerPoint.

“He sat back and said, ‘cool,’” Canon said, with a smile.

Then there was another student who selected pictures and photos as part of a project. He shared his concerns with Canon that the photos appeared “ugly.” Canon realized it was because the photos did not have enough pixels so they appeared blurry when made larger.

“I re-taught him how to read the sizes of pictures and he brought them in at a larger resolution,” Canon explained.

The end result was not only higher quality images, but a student who became proud of his work.

Though the courses she has taught have centered on math concepts such as algebra and computer literacy the experience of her classroom has also taught students life skills.

“Being responsible for your actions, being able to make changes and corrections,” Canon shared. “That ability to fix things and the ability to teach yourself.”

Technology, she said, has made it easier for students to take the initiative and ask for help or do their own research to better understand a concept. Canon’s journey into the education sector began at the University of Texas at Austin where she earned her bachelor of science degree in education.

She became certified in language arts and math and taught for a few years before earning her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction in 1996.

Her first job was as a long-term substitute teacher at Round Rock Middle School. She taught eighth grade language arts and by the next year had accepted a full-time position. She taught eighth grade math at the school, which at that point in time, was every student at that level in the district. Canon began the eighth grade algebra program and implemented that program at the high school where she taught for four years.

She became a mother in 1978 and took a hiatus from teaching until 1985 when she earned certification in computer literacy. She taught math and computer literacy for five years at Chisholm Trail Middle School.

Canon took time off to take some courses at school and take care of her mother. After earning her master’s she applied for a job in the Liberty Hill school district.

“I was like one or two courses away from being finished with my master’s at the University of Texas at Austin,” Canon recalled.

It was for a computer teacher position at the fifth through eighth grade levels. She mostly taught computer-based instruction such as keyboarding to fifth and sixth graders and computer literacy to the older students.

She finds the changes in technology and the school district fascinating.

“When I came here in ’95 I was leaving a middle school with an enrollment of 1,200 students,” Canon said. “There were 1,200 students in the entire district in Liberty Hill.”

She recalls that each department had just one teacher, for example, one fifth grade math teacher, one sixth grade math teacher and so on.

“The growth in faculty and students, it’s been huge,” Canon shared. “If you look at libraries and the different kinds of resources students have now. I think the breakdown by campuses has changed and Liberty Hill has done an incredible job of trying to keep up with the growth.”

During the 21 years Canon has served the Liberty Hill school district she has never lived within the community.

Her address is in Marble Falls and her drive combined with her long hours usually means leaving her home when it is still dark and returning to her house when it is dark again. But she doesn’t mind.

“It’s a family, the staff and teachers, both here at the junior high and across the district,” Canon explained. “We are very much a family. We support each other when we’re hurting, we help each other, we celebrate together and I think that’s going to be one of the things I miss the most. Is having that auxiliary family.”

She has also stuck with Liberty Hill school district because of its dedication to what she believes to be high standards and expectations academically and personally.

“If you’re going to be spending your time doing anything you have to be willing to expend effort,” Canon said. “To go ahead and put effort in something you have to be getting something back. A sense of accomplishment, new knowledge, new skills and the ability to celebrate those skills and knowledge.

“(Otherwise) You’re not going to be willing to put up the time and effort and work it takes,” she added. “Work ethic is so important in anything, whether working on a relationship with someone in your family, a friend, a job or even your hobby.”

Though she is looking forward to the next chapter of her life she admits retirement won’t exactly be time off. She will still be active, per se, but in a completely different aspect.

Canon will be working on remodeling and repainting her home, something she has not had time to do due to her hectic work schedule.

She will also take a trip to Canada on tour with singers from First United Methodist Church choir in Round Rock, which she is a part of, and the Round Rock Community Choir. She and her husband Butch are preparing to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in December. They had three children, including their son, Brad, and two foster children, one of whom is still a part of the couple’s lives.

They also have a daughter-in-law Emily and a “grandcat,” Bentley.

She remembers her first experience in the Liberty Hill community. That experience made it clear why the city is special.

She was on her way to interview for a position at the junior high, but the directions she was given took her to the high school. The high school at the time was at the location the Intermediate School campus is currently at. She thought the Liberty Hill Sculpture Garden stood out.

“I thought any community that supports this is the kind of place I want to be in,” Canon said. “And that was before my interview.”

Though Canon does not live in the community she has built lasting relationships with many. A daughter of one of her first year’s student is a co-teacher. She goes to church with other former students. Some come back to visit her long after having graduated from the Liberty Hill school system to tell her how her classes have impacted them.

From strong photography skills, to knowing how to make videos and typing professionally, she has heard many benefits of her teachings from former students. One former student recently was hired for a job because they had Microsoft Word and other computer skills that set them above the other applicants. The skills were not a requirement for the job but convinced the hirers they had the right candidate.

In addition to their academic capabilities Canon also believes children in Liberty Hill have a sense of empathy that should be admired.

“Liberty Hill is very fortunate to be blessed with some loving kids and we need to just keep nurturing that,” Canon. “We get to, for a moment, see that window into their soul.”

Canon will log out of her classroom computer for the last time at the end of this school year. Liberty Hill Junior High School will celebrate her retirement and legacy at the library starting at 4 p.m. on April 28.

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