Retired Warwick teacher Marsha Bock was recently honored by DECA, an international society for business students, an organization she has been involved with since she was a student in the program herself.
Bock, who currently serves on DECA’s Board of Directors as a regional representative and is state advisor for 11 Rhode Island chapters, was bestowed Honorary Life at DECA’s International Career Development Conference in Anaheim, Calif. this past April. Honorary Life is the highest award a member of DECA can receive.
According to the website, the goal of DECA is to prepare “emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe.
“It is certainly not a part-time job,” said Bock in a recent phone interview about her work with DECA.
Although she retired in 2004, Bock has remained involved with DECA and still works with students on a regular basis. As state advisor, she meets regularly with chapter representative and the student state officers and helps the students prepare for conferences and still assists with planning DECA events and fundraisers. Bock also enjoys being a part of the national Board of Directors.
“It’s very rewarding because we see the direction of DECA,” said Bock. “It’s really exciting.”
Bock has been involved with DECA since she was in high school and believes she has been involved for almost 50 years. As a student at Warwick Veterans Memorial High School, Bock was a student in DECA, learning the basics of business and marketing. She graduated from Vets in 1968 and went to college at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she continued to participate in DECA.
“Taking classes on a college-level in management and fashion made me say, ‘Wow, this could be its own program,’” said Bock.
While Bock was a student teacher at Pilgrim High School, she returned to Warwick Vets in 1972 for her teaching career.
“I was very honored to be able to go back to my alma mater and teach,” said Bock.
While teaching business classes, Bock made it her mission in her first year of teaching to bring DECA back to Warwick Vets. The program had stopped while she was in college.
“I really feel [DECA] made a difference,” said Bock. “At the time, there was another student organization focused on business, but it was focused on secretarial and accounting.”
Bock explained that program began with retail classes, but eventually branched out to include marketing, fashion and advertising.
“This was so much more than the average school day,” said Bock, explaining that DECA students do not just take classes but spend time after school working on projects, preparing for conferences and creating fundraising events.
“It was more than just a class,” said Bock. “It was something they were interested in.”
When it came to raising funds to attend conferences throughout the country, Bock let her students take the reins. Since her kids knew what students wanted to see, they designed events tailored to their age group, Battle of the Bands concerts, karaoke nights and more instead of bake sales and car washes.
In addition to class work and fundraising, Bock helped her DECA students find jobs at local retailers or other businesses, many of which were in Warwick Mall.
“It was torture trying to get Christmas shopping done because one of my students worked at every store,” joked Bock.
Bock’s career eventually turned to guidance in 1991, first at Gorton Junior High School, followed by Toll Gate High School and finally at the Warwick Area Career & Technical Center.
“It was very, very hard to leave Vets,” admits Bock, but she never left DECA behind, continuing to work as state advisor, a role she took on in 1985.
While Bock has received a number of honors in addition to the Honorary Life Award, including Rhode Island DECA Teacher of the Year, National DECA Hall of Fame, DECA’s Outstanding Service Award and was is the Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers publication three times, she still feels the greatest benefit is the connection she has been able to make with her students over the years.
“I run into a number of my students and they always say, ‘Oh my god, I loved your class,’” said Bock. “I felt the same way. They were my children.”
Bock also said many of her former students say their time in DECA influenced their career path. Bock recalls an especially close relationship with her students when she was a teacher at Vets and attended 21 junior and senior proms and 21 graduations. “To me, it was like a book. How could you not finish the book?” said Bock.
When asked if Bock, who is now 64 years old, plans to retire from her work with DECA anytime soon, she easily answers no.
“I think once you drink the Kool-Aid, you’re hooked. That was the case for me,” said Bock.
Bock says she is still enjoying her time with DECA and is not finished yet.