By Alyson Kay
Benfield Elementary Principal Debi Short will retire this summer after seven years as head of the school.
Short started her career as a special education teacher in Michigan. Because of her husband’s career in the military, she moved several times from Florida to Virginia and finally to Maryland. During her 31-year career in education, she worked as a reading specialist and an administrator.
Short credits her own teachers for her lifelong desire to be an educator. “I had teachers who were very impactful in my life,” Short said. “It was something that I wanted to do and hopefully impact the lives of children, and later on, the careers of teachers.”
In 2007, Short took a job as a principal at Shady Side Elementary School. She used her career as a teacher to guide her in those new roles as principal of Shady Side Elementary and Benfield Elementary.
“She is a strong instructional leader,” said first-grade teacher Jennifer Meushaw, who worked with Short for 11 years. “Mrs. Short was a former reading and special education teacher. She brought her expertise in these areas to her principalship. She has helped teachers refine and develop their craft. She loves watching teachers flourish and grow. She will be missed and I wish her the best in her retirement!”
Short considers her role as a reading specialist as especially important in helping her lead her staff as principal. “Being a reading specialist and reading really well enabled me to help teachers become better teachers of reading,” Short said.
During her time at Benfield, Short and her staff accomplished a lot. Benfield’s gifted and talented program was recognized by Maryland’s Excellence in Gifted and Talented Education (E-GATE) awards program. The school was also recognized as a Green School and a Wellness School of Distinction.
Robin Beers, a third-grade teacher at Benfield Elementary, will remember Short for seeing the school through a time of great transition when the new building was constructed.
“She advocated tirelessly for students and teachers through the growing pains of construction and even in the aftermath when there were issues with heating, air conditioning and other building issues,” Beers said. “Thanks to her oversight and advocacy, we have a beautiful facility that will benefit students for years to come.
“Mrs. Short also supported the staff through many changes in curriculum and instruction,” Beers added. “She always advocated for our staff to have the needed planning time to collaborate and hone our craft so that we could best serve our students. As a classroom teacher, these planning opportunities were invaluable.”
Short will miss her staff as much as the staff members miss her. “We’ve become a family,” Short said. “You spend years together and you truly become a family. I think that camaraderie is going to be missed the most.”
Short’s fondest memories of her time at Benfield always involve the kids. “You walk into a room and, especially the little ones, will run up and give you hugs and hellos and things,” Short said. “Those are always the things that are near and dear to your heart. It’s the children and how happy and excited for learning they are.”
After she retires, Short hopes to spend more time traveling with her husband, discovering new hobbies and working on her garden. She also wants to spend more time with family.
“We have six grandchildren, so we’ll be spending more time with them,” Short said.