A TRIBUTE TO MRS. PATRICIA SHOCKLEY, THE KEYHOLDER –
What is life without art? It is the palest, darkest, most despondent dimension. We live on degrees. We live on technology. We live on policy. Yet without beauty, without art, we are nothing, void: no longer that light approaching Olympus, no longer that cry aloud into the universe – no longer, as it were, human.
We are used to thinking of literature as written artwork, but literature is much more than that. To learn the joy of literature is to learn the joy of the arts, for all arts – prose, poetry, film, painting, theater, music, dance, – are literary. The different artistic fields have their own distinct languages, but all of them are literary. All of them work to reveal the human condition, to revel in the beauty of worldly existence.
My lifelong adoration of the arts began with the written word, with literature. The English Department at FHC, as such, was my natural home. And without Mrs. Patricia Shockley, my life would look so different than where it is now. Mrs. Shockley, without your lasting inspiration, I would have never changed my career path and chosen to follow what I truly love.
Folks, I want you to listen closely. Being taught AP Literature by Mrs. Shockley in 2017-2018 was a gift, an incredible gift, a gift I will always, always be grateful for. It is unbelievable luck that I had the opportunity to be taught by her. She is a woman with high standards, a big heart full of compassion, and a passion for the written word that is positively bursting at the seams.
Class with Mrs. Shockley is fun, spicy, challenging, revelatory. I will never forget playing Lord Macbeth. I will never forget going to Hannibal, birthplace of Mark Twain – a lovely idyll which, on its main street, contains statues of people who are entirely fictional. I adored our class visit so much that later, in college, my partner of six years and I went there again, on one of the best dates we can remember.
My connection to Mrs. Shockley is my connection to books. And Mrs. Shockley taught me that if you value literature, you value humanity. Literature makes all of us reluctant, irrepressible optimists, because at the end of this day and all days, someone is writing beautiful words. Literature teaches empathy. It is the miracle of seeing the world from others’ eyes, from others’ families, from others’ nations, from others’ long, totally unique histories. It is the miracle of destroying the “Other,” and leaving in its place what was there all along: living, breathing human beings deserving dignity, analysis, and most of all, love. It is not only that she prepared me for my college career; far more importantly, she prepared me to live a life that is whole, a life that is colorful, vibrant, electric: humming with the beauty of human art.
High school teachers matter. And this year, FHC is losing one of its brightest legends. The nation faces, today, some of the most difficult challenges in its 300-plus-year history. Teaching is getting much harder, not easier. But I believe the English Department will continue to provide a bulwark against ignorance, bigotry, hatred, and one-dimensionality. Mrs. Shockley is sadly passing the torch, but her legacy shines on through the years and years. Her work burns through the darkest dimension. It reminds us of that essential fact, one the United States needs now more than ever: literature sets us free.
Thank you, Mrs. Shockley. You succeeded. You will always have a home at FHC.
–Garrett Allen, Class of 2018
Mrs. Shockley – I’ll never forget the day in class when Alex hid in the closet and one of the other kids in class said there was a bogart in the closet. And you told us that in your day a bogart was someone who wouldn’t share their weed. Enjoy your retirement!
-Joanna (Leath) Wingbermuehle, Class of 2008
Mrs. Shockley didn’t just follow a curriculum — she had a yearlong dialogue with her students about what they enjoyed and what they needed. She challenged them (in an enjoyable way), she was understanding with them, and she dealt out earnest praise when they earned it. My year, she also dealt with a big, loud, annoying mold-killing machine in her classroom. Great times!
Enjoy retirement, Mrs. Shockley! Be happy knowing you made a lot of lives better. I loved my time in your class and appreciate all you taught me. Cheers to your next adventures — maybe you can teach that cute corgi how to analyze “The Crucible.”
-Evan Pagano, Class of 2013
Mrs. Shockley–we loved your class! The thing is, I can’t remember now what all we read, except I know we read Poe because I remember the Annabelle Lee doll…but what I do remember is that you explained things well, you were funny, and you put up with my incessant talking. Thanks for all of that. Have a happy, restful retirement!
-Brittany (Hayes) Copeland, Class of 2010
AP English Literature sounded a little boring when I signed up for classes but there I was on the first day in that class, which turned out to be anything but boring. From her down-to-earth personality and willingness to really listen to her students, Mrs. Shockley is one of those teachers that will stick with me throughout my life. She challenges her students while also being understanding of students having a life outside of school. She was one of the teachers that had all three of the children in my family and was able to form bonds with all of our unique personalities. I can’t imagine the halls of FHC without her smile and sass, and I know her legacy will continue in all her students that have had the pleasure of having her.
-Erica Swanson, Class of 2014
Mrs. Shockley is one of the few teachers I’ve ever had who consistently strove to recognize the autonomy of her students. In my senior year AP Lit class, she would always be open to hear our thoughts on assignments, what we should do next, and how the class was doing. It was this openness which fostered one of the best in-class communities I’ve been involved in, and which made a student who never particularly enjoyed English classes hold AP Lit as one of their top classes at FHC. Shockley’s clear dedication to her students, her teaching, and FHC was, is, and will continue to be supremely instrumental in my learning career.
-Reed Easterling, Class of 2021