From Student to Leader at Southern Door
Each week the Peninsula Pulse profiles alumni from Door County schools, sharing what they’re up to, what Door County taught them and what inspired them. To suggest an alumnus or alumna to profile, email [email protected] To learn more about Alumni Door County, visit alumnidoorcounty.org.
In 42 years of working in education, Patricia Vickman has come full circle: She graduated from Southern Door and now serves as superintendent.
“For me, it’s an opportunity to give back to the community that I got a great education from,” Vickman said. “I’ve always enjoyed the very family-centered feel, even when I was a student here in the high school.”
Vickman grew up as the oldest of five children on a dairy farm two miles south of Southern Door. Her father worked with a group of people who helped get the school district established, and he served on the board of education.
“Southern Door has been near and dear to my heart and to my family’s,” Vickman said.
Her school experience started in a two-room school in Maplewood, which is now the Forestville Town Hall. She went to Brussels for her junior high experience, then completed high school at Southern Door. Vickman’s career and marriage took her to several places around the U.S. and Wisconsin, but she returned to the district in 2012.
She always knew she wanted to have a career in education. She had an uncle and aunt who both taught at Southern Door, and she helped to raise her younger siblings. She wasn’t sure which level she wanted to teach, but she attended St. Norbert College and earned her degree in elementary education with a music minor.
It was Vickman’s intention to return to Southern Door to teach following her college graduation, but instead she went to Green Bay to teach kindergarten for a year when there weren’t any openings at home. After that, she taught in Luxemburg-Casco.
When she married her husband – Steve Vickman, the executive director of HELP of Door County – they moved to Ohio, where he worked in retail and she was a first-grade teacher. Their next stint was six years in Kentucky, where Vickman taught in public schools and earned her master’s degree in reading from the University of Louisville.
Their return to Wisconsin landed them in Oshkosh, where Vickman taught for 27 years, serving as a Title 1 reading teacher, reading coordinator, elementary-school principal, executive director of administration (a role in which she oversaw operations of the 24 schools), and human resources director.
She chalks up a lot of her success to the great mentors she’s had.
“If you would have asked me when I graduated from St. Norbert, I would have told you I was going to be a kindergarten teacher the rest of my life,” Vickman said. “All of the roles that I ended up taking on have been not necessarily roles that I have sought, but it’s been people who were important in my life who said, ‘Have you thought about doing this? I think you’d be great at this. We need you in this position.’”
Vickman’s varied career experiences have enabled her to apply a seasoned perspective to Southern Door. She’s worked in very small and very large public schools, in parochial schools and in schools with little diversity and ones with lots of diversity. Engaging with so many families and cultures has been invaluable.
“I think it’s always good for anyone – whether you’re in business or you’re in education – to experience different cultures, different lifestyles, different demographics,” Vickman said. “I think each one of my experiences that I’ve had has given me opportunities as well as challenges that have helped form who I am as a leader today.”
It’s been Vickman’s mission as an educator to be involved in the community. It’s a “symbiotic relationship,” she said. It’s not just what the community can do for the school, but also what the school can do for the community.
After all of these experiences, working with students and staff remains her favorite part of the job.
“Every day is a new day, a new beginning, a new opportunity to learn about individuals and their stories and to help them realize their potential,” Vickman said.