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Retired teacher keeps learning with genealogy, photos

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Someone once famously said, “A picture’s worth a thousand words.”

That same person might say Edgar Short’s photos are worth twice that.

Edgar and Cecelia Short

His Facebook page says Short’s a “genealogy researcher and conception artist,” but a lot of former Rio Rancho High School and The ASK Academy colleagues will remember him as a favored teacher.

A former RRHS colleague of his, Patricia Di Vasto, recalled: “Edgar Short was the teacher who loved his job and his students. ‘Super dooper’ was an expression he always used when something was going really well. I worked with him in the Engineering and Design Academy from 2004-06. He was the CAD teacher. Students begged to be in his class.”

“That’s true — I always had a full class,” Short responded. “We had 25 computers; we could have 25 students.”

“Edgar has always had a passion for giving students the keys and letting them drive. As a founder at ASK, he brought that belief in students’ ability to direct their own learning to the planning table,” said ASK Academy General Manager Dan Busse. “His was a critical voice to our use of self-directed and project-based learning with our scholars. More than anything else, though, Edgar cares about people.”

Short grew up in Fort Worth, and later studied arts and education at the University of Texas-El Paso, where he graduated in 1979.

“I’m 83, on the high side — I remember nine years in the Air Force and that was a real wonderful time till Vietnam came along. I got out and went to college.”

He moved to Rio Rancho in about 1998.

He taught computer-aided design at RRHS, “something brand-new to the district. It was the most-fantastic time of my life — to hang out with teenagers for 15 years.”

Seeing how teens were taking to technology, he thought about taking education to a different level.

“The ASK Academy is my idea,” he said. “I knew there was a better way to learn, where we put skill before knowledge. That’s the secret of The ASK Academy.”

But before The ASK Academy opened in 2010, Short went from RRHS to Cleveland High School, then just opening in the summer of 2009.

“They asked me to go to Cleveland and set up CAD,” he said. “I only had three classes, so I had time to write the charter (for The ASK Academy).We worked on the charter to the last minute; we went to Santa Fe (to get approval) in two cars — breaking the speed limit —so in case one of us got stopped, the other could go on.”

The ASK Academy’s charter was approved. It’s now in its third location, on Sundt Road.

“I retired after two years, in 2012,” he said. “I taught them to be lifelong learners. I’d done my job and the kids cried. I just thought I might want to do something else — I served as long in education as I had in anything else in my life. I thought it was time to move on, but I stayed on the board and just got off that.”

More to learn

Edgar Short created this illustration from his photography and a Computer-Aided Design program. Courtesy image.

“When I was in the Air Force, I ran a darkroom, back in 1966, ’67. I don’t remember if we had color or not,” he said. “I didn’t get excited about photography as an art form till digital came out — I taught the kids how to use cameras in CAD.”

Short has become a serious photographer — check out some of his work in the city’s 2020 calendar — and teaches senior citizens the craft at Meadowlark Senior Center.

“I needed to get them into digital; a lot had a hard time changing their thought process,” he said. “I took seniors under my wing since I was at RRHS; I’d take them to the school, to the studio.”

Now, he’s digging into his roots, discovering Daniel Boone is his sixth great uncle.

“I think it’s curiosity — everybody wants to know where they came from, what their ancestry is,” Short said. “ASK Academy got me involved, and I was already 70 years old. We had a lot of Mormon kids and they were asking me, ‘Who are you, Mr. Short? Where did you come from?'”

“I got a tree started; I was blown away by what I found,” he said. “I lived a solitary childhood; once I went into the Air Force, I never looked back.

“My DNA has been wonderful. (A relative) John Robertson was a Pilgrim and helped plan (their voyage to America); he didn’t make it on the Mayflower. (Another relative), Isaac Robertson, came over about a year later. … I’ve met a lot of cousins on Facebook — genealogy has been totally exciting for me.”

Next up for Short is writing a novel, based loosely on his genealogy research.

“It’s an ongoing thing — I go 24/7,” he said. “I probably don’t sleep six hours a night. I can jump off my computer and jump on my exercise machine. I’m a pretty healthy dude for my age, man.”

He and his wife, Cecelia, aka Ceci, have been married close to 40 years. The two of them have been assigned to do the city’s 2021 calendar, with the topic of desert flora.

Asked where his philosophy — “You live as long as you are remembered” — came from, he replied, “In my mind, it’s important that ourselves, our feelings, our memories are here. I think it’s our job that our legacies go forward — it’s important to me, for people, to leave things out there. People 500 years from now are going to be researching back, so, you know, it’s an ongoing job.”

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