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Teaching, 1983 - 2001
Science Department, Physics


A high school's academic reputation shines brightly when a graduating senior is accepted by a prestigious college or university. The student's unwavering dedication of commitment and sacrifice through their high school years has come to a successful end. When lockers are cleaned out and students come and go, the one constant remains behind-the-scenes -- the teachers.

John Hocken is that teacher. Shaping a student's mind to think; helping them to learn and grow; and opening the possibilities. Hocken would make the world a better place for learning in the Pacific Northwest with his expertise as a physics teacher.

Hocken graduated from Oregon State University in 1963 with a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in physics. He studied graduate physics at Cornell University in 1963-64 and spent the summer of 1964 working on classified projects at Lawrence Livermore National Labs, for which he had to obtain a Q clearance which involved an FBI background check.

In the fall of 1964, Hocken was one of five Cornell students awarded a Shell Scholarship for a teacher training program in physics education. He entered the teacher training program in January of 1965. In the spring of 1966, he taught at Ithaca High School and earned his New York State Teaching license.

Hocken married Patricia (Pat) in St. Louis in August 1966 and relocated to St. Louis, teaching at John Burroughs School (Grades 7-12) where he taught high school physics and eighth grade science (1966-69). Starting in 1969, he spent three summers studying at the University of Missouri at Rolla (known as Missouri University of Science and Technology today), as part of a National Science Foundation (NSF) program. The NSF program was for high school physics, chemistry, and math teachers to strengthen their subject area expertise. He earned a Master of Science for Teachers (physics) in 1971.

The Hocken’s moved to Oregon in the summer of 1969. He would take education classes at the U of O to obtain his permanent Oregon teaching license in 1972 and taught at Churchill High School from 1969 through 1983. At Churchill he taught physics, chemistry, earth science, algebra, geometry, precalculus. By 1977, physics enrollment had increased to three or four sections, which allowed him to teach only physics and chemistry.

One of his goals at Churchill and at South Eugene High School was getting more women to take physics. In his first year at Churchill, 100 percent of the students in his two physics classes were male. He worked with math teachers and sent letters to female students, encouraging them to take physics, and also encouraged his current chemistry students to sign up for the class. By the time he left Churchill, physics enrollment was 40 percent female.

In 1981-82, he took a one-year sabbatical from teaching to earn a Master of Science degree in computer science education at the University of Oregon.

In 1983-84, Hocken began his first year at South Eugene High School where he was hired to teach physics and be the science department chair, which he did until his retirement from the school in 2001. There he started an AP physics program in 1992. He realized that a solid physics foundation is important for any student going into science, engineering, or medicine, but beyond that, he thought it was an important class for all students to take, as part of a well-rounded education.

At South, he was a full-time physics teacher and continued to encourage female students to enroll in physics. At the time of his retirement, his physics classes were 50 percent female. Once students were in the class, it was important to keep them there, to succeed, and for them to realize that they could succeed. He taught physics and how to learn physics. He built time into his lessons to check-in with students, and frequently met with them outside of class. He inspired an appreciation of science by showing students that physics could explain so many everyday phenomena.

Hocken was the chair of the South science department from 1983-2001, including when the new science wing was built in the 1990s. He worked with architects and science teachers to help design classroom and lab space to be functional while staying within budget constraints. He and the rest of the science department met with architects once a week during the school year (the science department moved into the science wing in 1995).

In 2000, one of his former SEHS students, Joshua Ladau won the Merrill Presidential Scholar Award (outstanding senior award) at Cornell University. Ladau said Hocken was the secondary teacher who made the most significant contribution to his education. Cornell flew Hocken out to be honored as an outstanding educator and a $4,000 scholarship in John's name was created for a future student.

His last three years of teaching at SEHS overlapped with his daughter Sarah's first three years at South. For many years after his retirement, he returned to SEHS each spring to teach a unit on special relativity (including E = mc 2) to her AP chemistry class. He was also a substitute for her AP chem classes for several weeks in the fall of 2008, when she was put on bedrest while pregnant with her twins. Edie Anderson (SE Hall of Fame Class of 2022) covered most of Sarah's first semester, and John taught a five-week section in the fall.

After Hocken retired from teaching, he worked on many houses with the Springfield-Eugene Habitat for Humanity, including a few years as the construction committee chair. He also spent many hours volunteering in the Positive Change Courtyard, weeding and gardening with Randy Bernstein.|

During their 57 years of marriage, John and Pat raised three children. John taught them how to camp, fish, play softball, and drove them to numerous music and swimming lessons, practices, games, chess tournaments, and D&D sessions. He was also part of many rich discussions about physics applications, the nature of atoms, and the vastness of the universe. They are also grandparents to four grandchildren.

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