HIGHLAND PARK – Students at Sherwood Elementary School are saying goodbye to Mrs. Uribe, a third grade Spanish teacher who is retiring this spring. But they’ll still be able to see Ms. Uribe in the hallways and in the language resource center.
Laurie Uribe fulfilled her lifelong dream of becoming a teacher by going back to school to get her master’s degree after she and her family spent four years in Columbia. Her daughter Nathalia Uribe, a bilingual resource teacher, initially thought about becoming a psychologist or an artist, but like any good student, she learned by example.
“After my mom started in North Shore School District 112, I became a teacher’s assistant and realized how much I loved working with kids,” said Nathalia. “Then I decided to pursue education. She’s definitely the driving force for education.”
Although Nathalia has been in the district for over 10 years, she’s in her second year of teaching. She plans to continue to impart her mom’s wisdom at Sherwood.
Laurie is clearly proud of her daughter, the only bilingual resource teacher at Sherwood. Oak Terrace is the only other D-112 elementary school that features bilingual resource teachers. Laurie taught special education before she came to Sherwood.
Laurie said she fell in love with the dual language program.
“It’s not only the bilingualism, it’s the biculturalism. The fact that my daughter and I are here encouraging our children to look beyond the walls of the school to realize that there’s so much to learn, to see and accept about our country, and about our world. It’s a truly important message.”
Laurie was born in Colombia and brought to the U.S. as a child. At home the rule was to speak Spanish, so she and her siblings became fluent in Spanish. Her husband is also from Colombia, and the couple agreed that their children needed to be bilingual.
“Now we’re on to the third generation of bilingual family members,” she said about Nathalia’s seven-year-old daughter, who reads, writes and speaks in Spanish, and eighth-month-old twin girls.
Nathalia moved with her family to Colombia when she began high school in 1996, and the family returned to Morton Grove in 2000. Her mom explained how the Colombians celebrate Mother’s Day.
“Being that Colombia is very Catholic, the month of May is the month of the Virgin Mary. However, Mother’s Day is celebrated very similar to here, but children at any age do anything in their power to be with their mom,” she said. “Mothers are an important figure in Latin America in general. It’s a family oriented day.”
Laurie treats her students like family and cherishes the letters she’s received from former students.
“Last week a former student who’s a junior at Deerfield High School wrote that she’s going into special ed, because she wanted to be a teacher like me,” said Laurie.
Another student at Highland Park High School explained that the time they spent together in third grade made a huge difference, because the student was going through a terrible time. When describing what a teacher should be, Laurie was told, “I always think of you.”
One can’t help but notice that Laurie’s classroom is surrounded by a waddle of penguins in all different sizes.
“At the beginning of the year, Mom would tell her students about the penguins,” said Nathalia. “Well, all of those penguins are gifts from her students, which include: penguin erasers, salt and pepper shakers, and more.”
Laurie explained her infatuation with penguins: “I love what penguins stand for. They work together as a team, and I believe in family sticking together. In the penguin family, the man does so much of the work. In our family, my husband has been so supportive of me. Since I pursued a master’s degree in education as an adult, he always took care of the kids.”
DailyNorthShore interviewed the Uribes just days before Laurie’s May 5 retirement party at Sherwood School.
“I’ll miss being able to talk to her at lunch about anything, whether it’s school related or personal things,” said Nathalia. “We have such a close and supportive relationship.”
Laurie hopes to spend more time with her grandchildren, catch up on reading, and travel to the family home in Colombia.
“The thought of retiring is bittersweet, and I would like to have my finger in education whether it’s volunteering somewhere,” she said.
But Laurie knows that she’ll be leaving Sherwood in good hands.
“My daughter knows how important it is to get to know individuals, because each child has gifts and qualities and wonderful things that they bring to the school.”