Jason Heimerdinger was a student a McNary High School, seen here in the mid-1990s doing video editing on a VCR, before becoming a beloved Celtic teacher (Submitted).
Jason Heimerdinger has been a staple of McNary High School for more than half his life.
As a student, Heimerdinger graduated from McNary in 1996 and even served as senior class president. After graduating from Loyola Marymount University, he came back to Keizer in 2000 to take over the media production program at McNary, where he has taught for the last 19 years. He has also served as the activities director at the school for 10 of those years.
But this summer, Heimerdinger will begin a new chapter in his career.
At the end of the school year, Heimerdinger, along with his wife, Erin, and two kids, Atticus (11) and Scarlett (8), will be moving to Los Olivos, Calif. where he will be teaching at San Luis Obispo High School and will be teaching in the media production program.
Heimerdinger stated that the reason for the move was to be closer to his wife's family in California. While he is excited to take on a new challenge, Heimerdinger will greatly miss the kids and program that he has poured his heart into for nearly two decades.
“I will miss working with all the really ambitious students. I have made great relationships with those students and I appreciate the hard work and I like the fact that they are always asking me questions,” Heimerdinger said. “In general, I'm going to miss all the relationships from growing up in this town and being a teacher in this building.”
“Those ties are going to be hard to cut, but I trust that whoever comes in next will also recognize that student ambition and work with them well.”
Heimerdinger has taught a multitude of different media related classes at McNary, including video production, intro to digital media, media production internship, media production workshop and film appreciation.
While the technological world continues to change year after year, Heimerdinger also has shifted the way he teaches his course.
“We have started doing a lot more social media work with Facebook and Twitter, as well as managing of the school's website,” Heimerdinger said. “We have really shifted the focus on creating content and putting it up online, rather than making videos and showing them to the school in the commons.”
Heimerdinger first developed a passion for video editing and production as a freshman at McNary under the tutelage of teacher Mike Markee. Heimerdinger learned all about video editing with a VCR, and later in the school year, he was a student anchor for school announcements that would play in the morning in every room.
“I was just totally inspired by Mike Markee's video production program,” Heimerdinger said. “I just filled my schedule with video production elective classes. I knew I wanted to follow this as a career path.”
Jason Heimerdinger in more recent times with wife, Erin, son, Atticus, and daughter, Scarlett (Submitted).
After high school, Heimerdinger was hungry to learn more about the field that he grew to fall in love with, which is why he moved down to Los Angeles to major in communication arts/film and television production.
As he was going through higher education, Heimerdinger didn't really have being a teacher on his radar.
But that all changed in his senior year of college.
In December of 1999, Heimerdinger came back to Keizer during winter break and was able to reconnect with Markee over dinner.
Markee told Heimerdinger that we was planning on retiring and the end of the school year and that McNary was actively looking for someone to take over the program.
“I just kind off the cuff told him that I was graduating and that if they needed anybody, I will be looking for a job,” Markee said. “We laughed and chuckled about it.”
What may have been perceived as a joke at the time would soon turn into reality.
Just a week later, while he was sitting in his dorm room, Heimerdinger got a call from his old teacher, who explained to him that if he was really willing to come back, McNary would like to conduct an interview with him to put him up for hiring consideration.
And six months later, the rest is history.
“My initial plan was not to be a teacher. I always thought I was going to work and produce content somehow. But it ended up being my full-time job and it gave me the opportunity to come back home,” Heimerdinger said.
“It was exciting to be able to take the wheel from Mike Markee and continue to drive the program.”
Over the course of his tenure at McNary, Heimerdinger has had some exceptional students who went on to purse a multimedia-related career. But there is one who stands out above the rest.
Zeek Earl first stepped foot in Heimerdinger's class in 2003. And for the next four years, he fully immersed himself in everything that Heimerdinger had to offer.
After graduating from McNary in 2006, Earl elected not to go into media production and wound up attending Seattle Pacific University to study English.
While in college, Earl met Chris Caldwell, and the two formed a production company called Shep Films.
While they initially wrote and directed short films and commercials, Earl and Caldwell co-wrote and co-directed a full-length feature film called Prospect, a science-fiction movie that hit theaters in November of last year.
The film got resounding praise from critics, receiving a 90 percent grade from the review website, Rotten Tomatoes.
Earl came back to Keizer for a Nov. 16 screening at Salem Cinema, where he took part in a Q-&-A that was moderated by Heimerdinger.
“It was incredibly meaningful to have Jason visit the set of my first feature film and then host the Q-&-A when it screened in Salem. I’ve gotten the opportunity to talk to a few of his more recent students and it was really cool to see that he has now mentored empowered generations of aspiring filmmakers,” Earl said.
Ever since his first day at McNary, Heimerdinger has written all his own curriculum, so to see one of his students succeed in this fashion has been very affirming to him — especially since Earl didn't take any other media production classes after high school.
“To have Zeek launch himself so thoroughly into a professional career just because of those foundational things that he learned at McNary really did help me understand that what I was doing was having an impact,” Heimerdinger said.
Even though he is leaving, it's clear to see Heimerdinger's impact on McNary, as well as the Keizer community.
“The strongest part of McNary High School is the sense of community. There is a lot of tradition here,” Heimerdinger said. “The faculty, the students and the community all appreciate those traditions and try and maintain them and to create good opportunities for all the kids that are going to be entering into the school and I really appreciate that.”