2009-05-30 / Top News

Island Staff, Students Celebrate Vicki Urman's Retirement

By Jane Alexander

Teacher Karen Allen (far right) and friends applaud as Vicki Urman (center) receives farewell gifts at a luncheon at Mackinac Island Public School. Teacher Karen Allen (far right) and friends applaud as Vicki Urman (center) receives farewell gifts at a luncheon at Mackinac Island Public School. Vicki Urman's kindergarten and first grade classroom is cluttered with boxes. She's been packing them periodically throughout the week with things like paper towel rolls, egg cartons, and bags of rice and beads.

"The kids see me packing things and ask to keep them, and I say, Yes! Take it! The parents are probably loving it," Mrs. Urman said. "I have so much, but when you've been here 26 years, you start to build it up. You never know when something like an egg carton will come in handy."

Vicki Urman will retire this summer from Mackinac Island Public School after 26 years of teaching. Students and fellow teachers say she will be tough to replace.

Second and third grade teacher Laura Eiseler, who came to Mackinac Island Public School 17 years ago, says Mrs. Urman has imaginative techniques she's never encountered before.

"She really knows her stuff," Mrs. Eiseler said. "I've seen a huge difference between kids who come out of her classes and those of other teachers. She shows them excellent tricks to learn reading and counting."

These are tricks that former students still remember, like seventh grade student Paul Wandrie, Jr.

"We learned to count our fives by counting down to the last day of school with straws, one straw, five straws, ten straws," Mr. Wandrie said. "Every couple ones would turn into a five, and every couple fives would turn into a ten."

"We used shaving cream to learn to write our letters," sixth grade student Dana Roguska remembers.

Mrs. Urman's first impression of Mackinac Island was that it was far from isolated. She and her husband, former Mackinac Island Public School Superintendent Gary Urman, moved from Bush, Alaska, a town remote from its neighbors. The two schools at which they taught were in separate villages.

Mackinac Island Public School was also different 26 years ago, according to Mrs. Urman. There was no library, and the old gymnasium was small and cramped.

"We used to sit at ball games with our toes on the touch lines," Mrs. Urman remembers. "Most of the spectators couldn't fit in the gym and would have to watch from the hall."

The staff also turned over frequently then, she remembers. Many teachers would come and go within a few years.

"The school has made a lot of changes to make this an environment teachers want to settle in," she said. "I am so amazed at how dedicated this community has become in following our athletics and keeping up with our programs and activities, and the parents are so committed to their children's education. I count on them so much."

Mrs. Urman added that she will be available to help the new teacher, when hired, acclimate to the school.

"It's just such a close-kit community," she said. "It's going to be difficult for anyone new to come in and become familiar with the way things work here."

In retirement, Mrs. Urman said she may substitute for fulltime teachers at schools near Boyne Falls, where Mr. Urman is superintendent, but, mostly, she plans to spend time with her grandchildren and "read a lot of good books."

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