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Jordan Crook

Barbara McVicker holds up a mouse puppet named “Ed-Wyatt” that she’s used as an educational tool during her years of teaching preschool and kindergarten in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Barbara McVicker has seen and experienced much during her travels around the world and teaching in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Now that she has returned home Hoopeston, McVicker plans on sharing some of those experiences in a series of educational columns for young children that will be published in future editions of The Chronicle.

McVicker said she knows little kids look at newspapers from her experiences with students in the Virgin Islands.

She said the students always relished the chance to see articles that featured them or people they knew in them.

McVicker said it always made the kids feel special.

McVicker hopes her columns in The Chronicle may be of assistance to parents who are helping their students learn via remote-learning.

“It might be something they could use to kind of add to their curriculum,” she said. “It’s just kind of a fun way of learning and it’s a positive thing and maybe it will get students interested in learning.”

McVicker hopes to expose area youth to elements of the other cultures she has experienced during her travels.

While there are many differences among the various cultures she’s witnesses, McVicker said there are also many similarities and elements that remain constant across different cultures.

McVicker hopes to use the cultural experiences to help children better understand the concepts such as same and different and others.

“They need to learn that we’re all different, but we’re all the same and we should be proud and we should be respectful,” she said.

Teaching is something McVicker always wanted to do.

Prior to becoming a teacher, McVicker was a credit administrator for 12 years.

When the company she worked opted to consolidate their operations in Portland, Oreg. and close their Danville location, McVicker was faced with a choice.

The company offered to move her out to Oregon to continue working for them but McVicker chose not to continue working for them and pursued a new path.

“I thought ‘Well, this is the perfect time to do something I’ve always wanted to do,’” she said. “That door just kind of opened.”

McVicker had always loved working with kids.

She operated a youth center in Rossville many years ago and worked with all ages of kids at different camps.

McVicker enjoyed working with younger kids so she pursued a career in early childhood education.

After going back to school, McVicker opened her own preschool in Hoopeston in 2000.

During this time, McVicker and her husband traveled a great deal.

“My husband went scuba diving, I went and visited a school,” she said.

While visiting these other countries, McVicker would make it a point to purchase an outfit, a book and a toy that reflected the native culture of the region.

When they returned to Hoopeston, McVicker would incorporate these items into a multi-culture center she had in her preschool.

After a Department of Child and Family Services representative commented on the fact that McVicker’s preschool was the first she had seen with a multi-culture center, McVicker told the representative that she felt it’s important for kids to experience other cultures.

“I said I think it’s important for kids to learn,” she said.

McVicker related a story of why she feels this way, recalling a time when a student came up to her and said that he didn’t like Indians because all they did was “shoot people with bows and arrows and they’re mean to people.”

“That’s what he saw on TV,” McVicker said.

McVicker explained to the student that wasn’t the case and reached out to a Cherokee tribe in Oklahoma and the chief of the tribe sent them photos of Native American children playing with children of other races.

“I taught about how we might look different and we might think different, but there’s a lot of the same,” she said.

McVicker said the lesson had an impact on the boy she mentioned earlier and helped dispel some of the notions that were presented on television.

McVicker operated her preschool in Hoopeston for eight years before she and her husband decided to move to the Virgin Islands.

She said they’d traveled to many different islands over the years and thought they’d like to see what it would be like to try living on an island.

They had visited St. Croix before and decided it would be a lot easier to move there, since it’s a U.S. territory, rather than trying to move to completely different country.

McVicker would spend the next 12 years teaching preschool or kindergarten and working with preschool-age students at summer camps.

A constant companion through much of McVicker’s teaching career in small mouse puppet named Ed-Wyatt.

McVicker said many of the preschool students she worked with years ago likely still recall Ed-Wyatt.

Ed-Wyatt traveled with McVicker throughout her time in the Virgin Islands even when she wasn’t teaching.

“I have to take this with me when I’m down there, if I’m downtown the kids will say ‘Do you have Ed-Wyatt with you?’” she said.

While teaching, McVicker would only bring Ed-Wyatt out for the kids when they were being quiet, so it helped her manage her students’ behavior.

McVicker said her students were diligent about keeping track of Ed-Wyatt and always asked about him in class each day.

McVicker related an instance when she lost Ed-Wyatt when he fell out of her purse.

She was distraught over the possibility of losing Ed-Wyatt, but she used the experience as a lesson for her kids.

Fortunately, McVicker said, Ed-Wyatt was returned to her three days later when a good samaritan left him on a table on her porch.

Ed-Wyatt, unfortunately, was somewhat worse for ware from his time away, missing an eye and his nose, so McVicker explained to the three-year-old students she was teaching that she would take Ed-Wyatt with her back to the states and he could recover at a “mouse hospital.”

McVicker had intended to use the opportunity to switch out the puppet for a replacement she had, but her students asked her to leave Ed-Wyatt as he was.

“Those little kids, I was so proud of them, they went ‘No, Miss Barbara, we love him just the way he is,’” she said.

McVicker feels that every child can be reached.

“Every child can be reached,” she said. “You’ve just got to find out how that child can be reached.”

While she said there needs to be structure in a classroom, McVicker said she’s found the best way to reach kids to is make class a fun and happy place to be.

McVicker’s columns will be appearing in the next few edition of The Chronicle.

McVicker invites anyone with questions or who’d like more information to contact her via email at barb@missbarb.com or by phone at 217-495-1615.