On many first days of new school years as a high school chemistry teacher, Ron Urick of Prairie Grove often asked his students to stand up if they’d ever had near-death experiences.
If there were any, he would follow up by asking them to describe the experience.
In a new self-published book released last week, Urick describes this process, detailing why it was important for getting to know his pupils and what might inspire them academically as well as outside the classroom.
The book, titled “Teaching with Heart,” is Urick’s first. It’s meant to be a guide for others, including teachers, on how to spark new life interests and motivations in others.
The book centers on the stories of 34 of his former students – one of whom saved Urick’s life at an outdoor event, which is described in its pages.
This group, including members Urick taught in northern Illinois high schools over 43 years starting in 1971, agreed to participate in the publication by discussing who inspired them in life.
So far, Urick has been proud of the book’s performance on Amazon. As of Thursday, “Teaching with Heart” was listed by the website as its No. 1 new release in the category of “Experimental Education Methods.”
Urick taught at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire for 33 years and spent another 10 through 2014 at Chicagoland Jewish High School, which is now called Rochelle Zell Jewish High School, in Deerfield. He still coaches youth bass fishing teams in the region.
The book was dedicated to Bonnie Marlewski-Probert, a former student of Urick’s who was an equine enthusiast and published a series of written works called “Horse Tales for the Soul.” She initially had offered to help Urick with “Teaching with Heart.”
But Urick put the project on hold when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in the spring of 2020. When he resumed last year, he said he was heartbroken to learn of Marlewski-Probert’s death after a battle with colon cancer in spring 2021.
“Her assistance, encouragement, coaching and guidance was immeasurable,” Urick said.