George Mason High School’s beloved industrial arts teacher and print shop manager, Francis Leo “Frank” Sheedy, passed away last Saturday. Born Feb. 1, 1933, he died on Sept. 26, 2020.
According to the Falls Church City Public Schools’ announcement Tuesday, Sheedy “had been a loyal member of the FCCPS community, particularly GMHS, for many years, even after retirement…He was the go-to person for any urgent printing jobs, always executing them with the utmost care and skill. He was an active member of the school’s Sunshine Club and the Coffee Club. His legacy includes hundreds of students who learned important skills and embraced his motto of ‘just keep plugging.’ He was the 1991 Agnes Meyer Teacher of the Year.”
According to a Washington Post article that appeared following his being named teacher of the year in 1992, “From typesetting to job getting, Frank Sheedy covers it all in his printing classes at George Mason High School in Falls Church. But for all the wisdom and advice Sheedy imparts to his students, there clearly is one recurring theme: Keep plugging.
“If something needs to be done in a hurry or if the workload seems overwhelming, keep plugging. And if things outside of school are far less than ideal, Sheedy’s message remains the same.
“‘He’s the most selfless, giving professional I’ve ever worked with,’” said English Department Chairman Michael Hoover, who works with Sheedy as the faculty adviser for the school’s newspaper and literary magazine. ‘He’ll come in at night, on Saturdays and Sundays — times he doesn’t get paid for.’
“‘To me he was always there. If you ever needed someone to talk to, you could talk to him about anything,’ said senior Darren Lomis, a three-year printing student whom Sheedy helped to secure a job. ‘He’s really been like a father figure to me.’
“Along with teaching several printing classes each day, Sheedy is responsible for the printing of virtually every newsletter, pamphlet and publication in Falls Church. From the student paper to community newsletters, Sheedy and his students have a hand in the production.
“’It’s just keep plugging,’ he said. ‘I try to be up every day and have a positive attitude about why we are there. It’s tough sometimes, but it’s the thing you have to do for the kids.’
“Sheedy was named the Falls Church recipient of the Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award for 1991 after a nomination process that included support from colleagues, community members and students. For those who know and have worked with Sheedy, his selection was obvious.”
In a tribute to Sheedy submitted to the News-Press this week upon the news of his death, former George Mason teacher Michael Hoover offered the following:
“Because of my position as journalism teacher and sponsor of The Lasso at George Mason High School, it was my good fortune to work closely for a very long time with Frank Sheedy and all his ‘kids.’ In those prehistoric days before computers and robots took over the world, the student newspaper was entirely produced in Frank’s print shop using some old-fashioned methods. Like waxing the backs of all copy for paste-up, like using only one typesetting machine for all eight pages of stories. Like printing the photos in the darkroom. It was a massive undertaking and the journalism students along with Frank’s team produced a very important publication that was ahead of many programs at that time.
“Frank! Let’s be clear, everyone called him Frank, including his students. It wasn’t disrespect, it was respect, it was love. Frank would start every class with, ‘Okay team, here’s our project for today’ and those team members would jump to work, never wanting to let Frank down.
“And everyone who ever worked with Frank or was taught by him, knows that Frank never let anyone down. If he had to drive to school on a Saturday and a Sunday or stay late at night, he would do everything in his power to keep his promise to help. I truly believe that Frank Sheedy was the most helpful and caring colleague anyone could hope for. Totally selfless he was.
“It was because of that caring and enthusiasm and can-do spirit that a group of students and fellow teachers got together years ago to nominate Frank for the Washington Post Teacher of the Year. I still vividly recall reading all those heartfelt testimonials about what a great teacher he was, how dedicated to his students he was. Those recommendations brought tears to my eyes and everyone in the building had smiles of joy and pride when Frank won that honor. We all are better people for having known Frank. I am for certain. Okay Team, let us always keep Frank in our minds and his caring in our hearts. – Michael Hoover, Sept. 29, 2020.”