How wild the wind blows…
“Make sure to live your truth,” she said as her Costello-like glasses slid down the bridge of her nose, her curly hair haphazardly parted, and her toothy grin stretched the confines of her smile. To know Ally meant to know that she cared for those around her more than she cared for herself. This was the motto she lived by. But more than that, she expected others to live by it as well. To her, living your truth wasn’t just about being true to yourself; Ally believed in practicing that truth daily. And that was the singular most important lesson she instilled in her students. The irony is that Ally never thought of herself as a teacher. An academic, yes. A writer, maybe. A teacher, never. But Ally was a teacher, and she was one of the best.
Wife to Manfredi Giliberti, sister to Anne, and daughter to Joseph and Carmelita Schieve, Ally passed peacefully in the home she shared with her husband and corgi, Ernie, in Somerset, New Jersey on November 16, 2016.
She came to Wardlaw-Hartridge in the summer of 2009 having just graduated from the Douglass College at Rutgers, where she earned a B.A. in Religious Studies and later, an M.A. from the Graduate School of Education. Her versatility at W-H knew no bounds. She was the 9th Grade Dean. She was a coach for the Middle and Upper School Swim and Cross Country teams. She was the Director of the Writing Center, creating the college essay workshop for seniors to ensure that their voices came through their writing. She piloted courses for ninth through twelfth grade including: Senior Research Seminar: The Capstone Course, Religious Studies: Comparative Religions, Religious Studies: Holy Wars, Global Citizenship, Cultural Anthropology, History Through Film, and Living Writers: An Author Study.
She was an avid supporter of the arts, helping direct various plays, and taking her students to the Metropolitan Museum of Art often, to remind them that education was not limited to the four walls of the classroom. “In a privileged school and sheltered life, I went through high school pretty immature. You helped open my eyes to the real world, the ugly version of America that you don’t learn about in textbooks. You helped me navigate through all that ugly to find that writing is a passion of mine, and that through it I could fight for what I saw to be right. Thank you for all you have done for others and for me. We’ll miss you,” Julian Hernandez-Webster reflected.
Ally fought for social justice and equality, supporting the GSA and presenting in various symposiums for the W-H school community. She organized coat drives and reach-out programs for those in need. While these are by no means all of her accomplishments, they show how active a participant she was in the community she loved and belonged to.
Family, friends, colleagues, students and former students came out in droves to commemorate her life on November 19th at St. Gregory the Great in Hamilton, New Jersey, her hometown. “We will take the many lessons you taught us. We will work hard. We will treat others with decency and respect, and no matter what, we will always fight for what is right. You are deeply missed, but your legacy lives through the good you’ve brought out in all of us,” said former student Miah Hagood.
The loss of Allyson Schieve is palpable. It is a loss felt by many, not singular to any one individual, because she had the unique ability to make you feel as though you were the most important person to her at any given moment. She listened, really listened when others spoke. She felt, and felt deeply, chronicling her two-year battle with Cancer the only way she knew how, by writing and publishing her experience in the hope that others who were suffering might find solace through her words. She had a quiet reserve, but a commanding presence.
Ally’s quick wit and satirical humor were entirely her own. She was unequivocally optimistic, never dwelling on the negative and always looking for the hope that lay in the unwritten. She was happy: a joyous and unapologetic happy. She found bliss in the simple and familiar. She sought comfort in knowledge. She instilled faith in the unlettered and courage in the broken-hearted. She was fierce and formidable. She had many roles.
She was a friend. A student. A teacher. A mentor. An advisor. A traveler. A confidant. An advocate. An aunt. A sister. A daughter. A wife. A champion in heart and practice.
E. L. Doctorow said, “writing is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” Ally didn’t always know where she was headed, but she often said that knowing where you were going didn’t matter, it was the journey of process that was most important. She never allowed herself to get stagnant, in life and in death.
She loved. She loved life. She loved her life. Molly Drake once sang, “Love lies in the arms of change as a joy carries a pain, and no one knows how wild the wind blows.” Ally’s pain has been eased. Her love is ubiquitous. And so, the wind moves on.