John Honey (second from right) celebrates after winning the Service to Education Award at the Jan. 23 Keizer First Citizen Awards banquet. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

John Honey (second from right) celebrates after winning the Service to Education Award at the Jan. 23 Keizer First Citizen Awards banquet. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

Sure, John Honey could have retired when he thought he would.

But had Honey merely retired after serving as McNary High School principal for four years, he would have missed out on a couple of things.

For example, there’s last fall’s opening of the new Career Technical Education Center, of which Honey is the first principal.

That led to the second thing: being honored with the 2015 Service to Education Award at the Jan. 23 Keizer First Citizen and Awards Banquet. Honey was presented the award by last year’s recipients, Krina and Chuck Lee. Chuck Lee works alongside Honey at CTEC, a private-public partnership between Mountain West Investments and the Salem-Keizer School District. Chuck is a SKSD school board member, while Krina runs the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation.

“This person has been involved with the education of young people for over 30 years,” Krina said. “After nine years in the classrooms of North Salem and Sprague High Schools, this person worked as an assistant principal or principal of several schools before enjoying four years at McNary High School as their principal. This person is now the first principal of the new public-private Career Technical Education Center.”

While that made it obvious, Chuck added some more details.

“This person’s goal at McNary was to get the students and staff to contribute back to the community as much as the community of Keizer had contributed to them,” Chuck said. “He did this by developing the JROTC program and improving facilities.”

Krina noted the recipient adopted Keizer as his town.

“He now claims himself to be a Keizer guy,” Krina said. “Working in Keizer with many, many groups has helped him come to value how closely connected the Keizer community is and how very easy it is to be engaged in the family of Keizer. Please join us in honoring and celebrating Mr. John Honey.”

Honey, who came to the stage while the Grand Jazz and Swing Band played the tune of Sesame Street, liked the big clock award.

“I’m going to wear that around my neck, with a big chain. It’ll give me real street cred,” Honey joked. “This is a great honor. I’m really surprised. I didn’t have a chance to prepare a speech, otherwise I could kill 45 minutes. That’s why they didn’t tell me, I guess.

“I really appreciate the honor,” he added. “I really do consider myself a Keizer guy. It’s not a job I thought I’d wind up in, but this is such a great community with such a strong sense of purpose and unity. It’s really nice to be a part of that. Thank you for the recognition and all you do for our students.”

Honey said afterwards becoming a principal in Keizer wasn’t in his plans originally, but he’s now glad it happened.

“I landed in Keizer almost by accident,” Honey said. “I very quickly became part of a great group of people who care about each other, the kids and the schools. I find myself being drawn more and more into the community. It’s a great place to be. I’m very happy to be here.”

Honey said everyone in education shares a vision.

“We know it’s not easy,” he said. “We don’t do it for a clock. We don’t do it for awards. We do it because it’s the right thing for our kids. Anything we can do to support them and help them make meaningful decisions and make plans for a better life, it’s worth it. We just need to keep working hard, doing the right things for the right reasons and that’s to help the kids.”

Honey wasn’t anticipating his late career switch.

“I was ready to retire (after MHS),” he said. “I had a new grandson and had been working for over 30 years. I was kind of ready to try something new, but I didn’t think it would be something new in education. I’d been a teacher, administrator and then this opportunity at CTEC opened up. It was so different.

“I’m a journalism major who became an English teacher who turned into a principal who became the CTE guy,” Honey added with a chuckle. “Now I’m learning to weld and I’m driving a forklift. It’s not where I thought my life was going to go. It was the culmination of 30 years of experience, but it really was the beginning of a new chapter. Every day I learn something new and every day I run into new challenges.”

Honey doesn’t see those challenges as bad things.

“Really they are opportunities because I’d never thought of that,” he said. “I worry about the price of steel now. I didn’t think that was in my job description. We’ll just keep going. We will keep adding new programs. Maybe now I’ll retire at the end of next year or maybe two or three years after that. As long as it’s exciting and challenging and we’re doing good things for the kids and the community, we’ll keep doing it.”

Honey spent the day of the banquet painting his kitchen and told his wife he was thinking about not going.

“She said you said we’d go there and we had already bought the tickets,” Honey said. “I’m glad I came.”