He’s got a job as big as Idaho itself. From Twin Falls to Coeur d’Alene, John G. Cannon, ’91 ACES, EDM ’94, brings vocational education to the high schools of the state. An associate professor of education at the University of Idaho Boise—“the ‘other U of I,’” he says, in jest—Cannon helps welders, plumbers, electricians, nurse practitioners, athletic trainers, accountants and others pass their expertise on to the next generation. “We have to be innovative and listen,” he says of running the university’s career and technical education training program.
With participants all over Idaho, Cannon has to think big—and drive a lot—to advise, train and observe high school teachers as they pursue state certification in occupational education. “Some come from very remote places in the mountains and high desert,” he says. “Traveling this state is definitely different than traveling east central Illinois.” Cannon began using Zoom for classes and meetings well before the pandemic and has developed an innovative cohort arrangement that allows teachers from the same region to work together toward program completion.
Because skilled tradespeople are in short supply, there’s high demand for occupational training—and the teachers who can provide it. “Many of our participants are already teaching high school,” Cannon says. The state of Idaho helps rural schools purchase equipment for training in occupations such as welding and health care and also underwrites InSpIRE Educate, a program Cannon developed to help new teachers hone their classroom skills. Recently, the Career Technical Educators of Idaho honored him as Idaho Teacher Educator of the Year.
Insisting that he has been rewarded most by “seeing the teachers we certify have successful lives, with good careers and thriving families,” Cannon allows that “I do my best to be a mentor.”
Cannon began his professional life teaching high school in Illinois, as well as coaching baseball and football. The latter avocation led him to serve as a referee for high school games throughout his career. He moved to Idaho in 2008, and while it’s been a rewarding dozen-plus years, his fondness for the Midwest and the U of I endures. He remains a loyal fan—and season ticket holder—of Fighting Illini football. Concludes Cannon: “I’ve always been a son of Illinois.”