Though Myra Shock of Searcy spent more than 30 years teaching, her current job is giving her an opportunity to learn. In March, she became executive director of the Searcy Art Gallery.
She was born in Searcy but didn’t grow up there, as most people would think, Shock said.
“I was less than a year old when my parents moved to east Texas,” she said. “I grew up in Gladewater, Texas.”
She graduated from high school there but had her heart set on Harding University in Searcy to continue her education.
“I came to Harding, and I’ve been an Arkansan ever since,” Shock said. “[My family] had always visited Arkansas a lot, and my grandmother was still living here [when I went to college]. I’ve always had some family connections here and have been familiar with the city.”
Shock met her husband, Jay, while they were both students at Harding, where she received a bachelor’s degree in education.
When she graduated, her husband still had a year of school left, so she took a job teaching third grade at Des Arc Elementary School in Des Arc.
“I had the most wonderful principal,” she said. “I commuted back and forth [to Searcy].”
She taught there for one school year; then the Shocks moved to North Little Rock, her husband’s hometown. A teaching job at Central Arkansas Christian School opened up, and she took it.
After teaching fifth grade for several years and taking night and summer classes at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, another opportunity opened up at the school.
Shock received a master’s degree in library science at UCA, which allowed her transition in 1991 from teaching to serving as CAC’s librarian.
“I got to work with all the kids [when I became the librarian],” Shock said. “I loved it.”
Shock didn’t stop with her education after her first master’s degree. In 2006, she earned a master’s degree in education with an emphasis in reading and a reading-specialist endorsement from Harding.
“That really helped me help the kids [in the library], even though I didn’t ever work formally as the reading specialist there,” Shock said.
It was the students who kept her coming to work each day.
“I loved working with the students, and I loved it when I could connect students with literature,” Shock said. “That sounds cliche, but it’s really true. CAC was a small school, and I knew the kids. There were a lot of them I knew all the way up, pre-K through sixth grade.”
While she was working as the school’s librarian, Shock realized the importance of reading in the children’s lives.
“The world is exploding with knowledge, and even though there are all kinds of technology, they still have to read to take it all in,” she said.
In May 2012, Shock retired after 30 years with the school. Her time at CAC was not consecutive, however. She had taken some time off when she had her two children, she said.
“I saw a lot of change from that first year to the end,” Shock said.
In 2008, while she was still working at CAC, Shock and her husband moved back to Searcy, where the two had met.
“My husband was working for the city of Searcy, and he had commuted [to North Little Rock],” she said. “We just decided to move here.”
Just before she reached her first full year as a retired teacher, Shock said, she decided she wanted to find a part-time job.
“I applied with the city, and [the executive director] job came open,” Shock said. “This is a city job, and we’re paid by the city of Searcy. The parks and recreation director asked me if I would be interested in this job.”
Though art hadn’t been a focus for Shock in the past, she saw the opening as executive director of the Searcy Art Gallery as a learning opportunity. In March, Shock took her new job in the historic Benjamin Clayton Black House, which houses the gallery.
“I love working with people,” Shock said. “One of the things I learned as a teacher — you really have to be a lifelong learner. We all need to be that way.”
Shirley Baugh, a former director of the Searcy Art Gallery, has helped Shock in her transition into the position.
“She’s been so much help,” Shock said.
Shock’s interest in learning each day has kept her on her toes at the gallery.
“I haven’t become an artist, but I’ve learned an appreciation for it, and I’ve loved every exhibit we have had,” she said. “When we get a new exhibit in, it’s like Christmas — pulling the pieces out.”
She has met artists throughout the state and has learned how everyone’s perspective varies.
“One exhibit we had was by a married couple who had done some still life [paintings],” Shock said. “They would set things up and paint it, and it would look different. … Every artist has a different perspective.”
In her nine months on the job, Shock said, her favorite part has been the people she has met.
“Even though Searcy is not really a large city, I have met people in our community who I would have probably not met any other way,” she said. “That’s been the most fulfilling — getting to know the people.”
She’s been a part of the Searcy community for a long time, but her spot with the Searcy Art Gallery has given her a chance to see firsthand how the people in her city work together.
“Searcy is just a great community,” Shock said. “The people here care about each other, and they care about their community and want it to prosper.”
Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.