Frank Urbancic – the face of Cabramatta West Public School – blows full-time on his 39-year teaching career today.
The 60-year-old started teaching at his first and only school on January 30,1979 and has been an invaluable teacher, mentor and role model in the school community since he began his first role as an English as a Second Language teacher for newly arrived migrants to the Cabramatta area.
To put in basketball terms – a sport where Mr Urbancic has helped the school become champion school eight times – he is the Michael Jordan of the school community.
At 7am he can be found hard at working sourcing casual teachers and preparing lessons for the “fantastic” students of the school.
In his four decades at the school he has taught across all grades and is known for making learning a fun experience – even if it meant dressing up to get the kids enthused for a particular topic.
He has loved every minute. Every camp, every excursion, every sports carnival – he wouldn’t change a thing.
Although there have been plenty of changes around him.
From the cultural changes, to the principal changes (five in total plus relieving ones in between) and the size of the school which he thought was “very big” when he first visited the school with his father a few days before he started teaching after he got a piece of paper in the mail saying he was going to replace a teacher.
But the biggest change has been technology.
“I can still remember the smell of the methylated spirits in the office when you had to copy stencils and activity sheets on the spirit duplicator,” he said.
“These days with computers students have many more opportunities when it comes to learning and it is easier to get resources to make teaching more meaningful and worthwhile for the kids. I remember when I couldn’t get film strip or slides to match what the kids were learning about. Now it’s all on computer where as before the only thing we had were reel to reel films or slide projectors.”
Mr Urbancic’s devotion and commitment to sport is what he will be remembered most for. He has held various roles as an executive member and convenor in the Horsley Zone Primary Schools Sports Association.
For 30 years, he has contributed as a swimming, cross country and athletics official for the Sydney South West Primary Schools Sports Association (PSSA) while at the same time still organsiging school swimming, cross country and athletics.
His passion for helping kids develop their talent led to numerous success for teams under his watch in basketball and football.
Naturally his commitment and dedication to sport at zone, regional and state level has led to accolades. In 2016 he was awarded a service award for contribution to Sydney South West Sport and in 2014 he received a service to swimming award in 2014.
He is most proud of the establishment of the Frank Urbancic sporting achievement award which will be handed out to one pupil each year at the school.
So what’s the most important thing about playing sport?
“Fun,” he said.
“Usually when you’re with your friends and having fun, it leads to success. It’s been most satisfying to giving students the opportunity – especially in this area – to see they are capable of learning new skills and learning new sports and rules. I will miss that opportunity to train and develop and kids in different sports.”
It’s not the only thing he will miss.
“No.1 is I’ll miss the students; they’re fantastic. They are well-behaved and willing to learn and willing to be challenged. You become a teacher to work with students and help them develop and grow. They have helped me too. The young children make me feel young and today, I still have the same energy and enthusiasm as when I first started teaching,” he said.
“The parents at this school are marvellous and very supportive of what we do, especially with sport programs and I will miss them greatly.
“And the staff – I’ve worked with many different teachers over the years and they are all extremely hard working and dedicated professionals. We all work together well to make the learning experiences for students worthwhile and meaningful and you won’t find a more dedicated, hard working and caring group of individuals.”
The school will farewell Mr Urbancic today with a special assembly and student/teacher basketball game.
He said he plans to spend retirement enjoying life with his family and wife Frances – and maybe some casual teaching down the track.
So after 39 years and some 8000-plus days teaching, what is Mr Urbancic’s No.1 memory?
“I couldn’t say just one – but for me it was things we did to make learning fun for the students like at a cross country to get the kids enthused we arranged to turn the arrows the wrong direction so I would run the wrong way and they all screamed ‘no,no,no it has been changed’. It was something different to get the kids interested. I enjoyed things like that.”