Teacher Profile: Mr. Hock climbs his way to happiness
by Benny M.
In C140, 3D printers, excited students, and TSA members all get to know Mr. James Hock, the teacher for the tech classes at MR.HS. As a class period ends, Mr. Hock stands up to address the students and reminds them to get off screens and go outside. Mr. Hock has been climbing since he was 16, and has loved the outdoors since he went fishing with family before then. 34 years later, he is still climbing, and still helping others get a love of nature along with a love for the technologies used in his classroom.
Mr. Hock does more than just run the tech and TSA programs, though. He climbs. Mr. Hock rates his climbing experience as “expert” due to the sheer number of climbs and the variety of them. Ranging from desert monoliths to towers in Dubai, to some of the mountains in Colorado, to Yosemite, over the course of the many years he has enjoyed this hobby, he’s added many new places and achievements to his list of accomplishments. He thinks the coolest moment in every climb is the moment you are able to look down and see the birds flying below you. A typical climb starts early in the morning, then as time goes by they get higher up, and sooner than possible, they’ve reached the peak or summit.
“It really is the aesthetics of the thing,” he explains. “I love breathing in the cool air and looking around and seeing all the beauty of nature.”
The tallest climbs he’s done are between 2 and 3 thousand feet in elevation, which is no simple task. The locations are spread around, making no single tallest climb but rather “a mix up between the Diamond of Long Peak, so if you head up toward Fort Collins and you see Long Peak and that diamond shaped face, that's about 2,500 feet, straight up the middle, there's a route called the casual route.
“I’ve also been to Yosemite and done Royal Arches, and a few others that were also multiple thousands of feet. I've also climbed in the Black Canyon of Gunnison, even though you have to descend to climb out it's still upwards of 2,000 vertical feet of climbing.”
He is able to continue this hobby because of the point he is at as a teacher. His weekends aren’t full of work, planning, and grading, but rather are very open and free. Instead of sitting around and doing nothing in his free time, he uses most of his breaks and weekends to climb, train, and relax, among other things. This way he can work the time in for climbing, which takes full days and is a strenuous task requiring lots of prep work.
In the classroom, he encourages students to appreciate the outdoors, sharing details of his climbs and adventures whenever possible, even working them into lessons. These, among many, many, many other things, make his classes fun and interesting to students.
Auggie M, a Senior in Mr. Hock’s AP Computer Science Principles class explains the teaching style: “It’s great, he always makes sure that we’re engaged, he always presents material in an engaging manner, and he is very engaged with his students.”
Junior Isaiah A, who also takes AP CSP, has gotten more interested in the field through the tech classes: “Mr. Hock has definitely given me a spark for a new type of learning and overall for a new subject I never thought I would have interest in until I met Mr. Hock.”
Mr. Hock remembers some of his scariest moments in climbing: Once, he was climbing a tower in Thailand when he slipped and fell into a position where he couldn’t reach the wall. Luckily, he was harnessed, but for a few minutes he was just hanging in the air trying to swing back and forth to get to the wall. A crazy memory is his first time climbing Yosemite, when he and a friend took the wrong path down and had to climb to the top again, just in time for night to fall. Since it was already night and they had no idea how to get down, they were forced to make a camp for the night, which is called an "unplanned bivy."
He says that aside from those, there haven’t been many scary moments in climbing, once you get used to the initial adrenaline. Mr. Hock advises new climbers to take the time and go to the gym frequently, to build strength and muscle memory, and practice for the real thing. Climbing is an intense physical activity, and needs lots of preparation and training to be able to do climbs frequently and safely.
Mr. Hock can be found teaching and being awesome almost all day in C140, the tech classroom, and on Wednesdays after school for the TSA (Technology Student Association) club, where lots of tech shenanigans happen weekly, and new members are always welcome.