After going through six keyboards and three laptops within one year, I’ve gotten to know Bruce Stocker quite well. Although the need for replacement wasn’t entirely my fault—I’ve always been cursed with technology—I’m not alone in this experience.
Stocker has worked with many people, both staff and students, consistently making a positive impact and bringing humor to his role in Information Technology (IT) Services. However, after twenty years within the Oyster River Cooperative School District (ORCSD), Stocker, with his immense patience and quick-witted personality, has decided to retire.
When Stocker first entered the IT field after a lifelong fascination with electronics, he began working in a corporate setting, but was eventually laid off after 9/11. After working at a golf course and spending some time at home, he started at Oyster River in September of 2003, learning to love the position he’s been in ever since.
Celeste Best, a science teacher and the Technology Integrator at Oyster River High School (ORHS), has worked with Stocker since the day he set foot in the building. While Best was unsure of how she’d feel about the “new kid on the block,” she immediately loved Stocker and was excited to work with him. “I thought he was hysterical from the get-go. Sometimes when you have an outsider coming to education, you’re not always sure how they’re going to fit in if they haven’t come from the education system. Initially it was like, ‘oh, he’ll just be a typical business guy,’ but once we met him, everybody honestly fell in love with his personality.”
Similarly, Lisa Harling, the Library Media Specialist at ORHS, noticed Stocker’s sarcastic humor and his willingness to help others. “He’s always been incredibly helpful and such a nice coworker to have. He is probably way overqualified for his job, but he doesn’t show it in a rude or stuck-up way. He’s incredibly honest with what he thinks will work and does his best to make sure that his help matches our expectations.”
While Stocker enjoys the IT part of his job, he truly loves interacting with the staff and students. “I always try to break the ice when working with staff and students who I may not know as well, to make them feel more comfortable. It’s important they know I’m there to help. I don’t want them to think I’m a stuffed shirt or a robot. It’s nice when people come and talk to me so we can work together and figure out whatever they need,” said Stocker.
There is no doubt that Stocker works to connect with others in need of technological help, consistently finding ways to bring humor into the sometimes-stressful situations. As a technologically challenged student myself, I became a frequent flier in Stocker’s office (or as he likes to call it, “the tech hive”), my visits quickly becoming a running joke. “It was like a revolving door with you coming in. Every time the door opened; it was like ‘Sarah? Is that you?’” said Stocker. While keyboards three through five were particularly aggravating, as they occurred within ten minutes of each other, Stocker immediately joked that my broken keyboard collection should be framed as a graduation present, easing my stress and frustration.
This is a quality that staff also recognize. “He’s honestly just a really great person. Bruce is one of those people who’s willing to make fun of themselves to ease the tension or make others laugh,” said Best. “One of the funniest memories [we share] is from the beginning of remote learning. I was really stressed and had been up since four in the morning answering panicked emails, when all of the sudden an email from him came in, with a picture of him all set up, saying that he was ‘preparing for battle.’ It made me laugh so hard.”
When Stocker officially announced his retirement, there were a lot of mixed emotions, especially throughout the ORHS staff. “When he said he was going to retire, I was happy for him, because I know he has activities which he really loves to do. So, I know he’ll be busy, and he’ll be doing the things that he loves. But I felt bad for the library right away because he helps us in numerous ways. I was happy for him and sad for us because I think he’s going to be incredibly difficult to replace,” said Harling.
When I first asked Stocker how he knew he was ready to retire, he was quick to joke that he’s “of legal age.” However, he continued by talking about all of the things he’s excited to do that he doesn’t want to push off much longer, including hiking and land conservation work.
“I just figured the time is now. I’m still healthy. I still like to do stuff. I’m hoping to volunteer for the Southeast Land Trust, or the Barrington Conservation Commission, which do a lot [in terms of] land management and conservation. I want to go hiking and help maintain trials. Really, I’m excited to do things which will keep me outdoors instead of sitting in front of the computer.”
Even with this excitement, Stocker will miss some of the simpler things which came with his job, like his daily routine, and the 5am snow day calls from Superintendent James Morse.
There is no doubt as to whether Stocker will be missed within the ORCSD community. “I’m going to really, really miss him. I’m super happy for him, but at the same time I’m super sad for me and us here at the high school. His role will definitely be really tough shoes to fill,” said Best.
– Sarah Laliberte
Images Courtesy of Bruce Stocker & Celeste Best