OIHS’ Beloved Retiring Teachers

Nancy Wrightsman in her office (left) and Vicki Clancy teaching a class (right) / Contributed Photo

Vicki Clancy and Nancy Wrightsman have both worked at Orcas Island High School for many years, and they are both going to retire at the end of this school year. Clancy has worked as a math teacher for 21 years and Wrightsman has been the high school counselor for 25 years. Clancy and Wrightsman have shown great dedication to Orcas Island School District, and they have been an integral part of the school community.

Clancy has lived on Orcas Island for over half of her life, but she has not always been a teacher. When she moved here, she was a full time mom, and eventually she opened her own wedding flower business called Blossoms and Branches. She ran her business from her house, and has made arrangements for hundreds of weddings. After several years, she started tutoring math while continuing to run Blossoms and Branches. She was a math major in college but moved away from math to do her floristry, so when she started tutoring, she was able to re-learn what she had forgotten from college. There was a program where families could hire a tutor, while still following the school curriculum, so Clancy had several one to six person “classes.” She decided to take some additional online classes to complete those she did not finish in college.

When asked why she enjoys math, and why she chose to pursue it, Clancy said “the part of math that I love the most is that it is all about finding a pattern. And once you see the pattern, you can take this complex situation and organize it in a way and find out something simple about it. It’s taking something complex and making it simple.” She admires how math is built into nature: the growth of leaves, flower petals, the shape of rocks and crystals. She also mentioned how math is interwoven into our lives. She said “I think that’s one of the things we as humans try to do is find patterns, and then create things to make our lives easier. Engineering for example, and artists do it by portraying the patterns in nature that they see.

When a job opened up at the high school, she applied and was then hired as a high school math teacher, teaching from algebra 1 level through calculus level classes. She did not have a teaching certificate, but due to her courses, she was given a temporary certificate as an expert in the field. After she started working, she completed her official teaching certificate. When she started teaching, she had to give up her flower business, but she has volunteered her skills on several occasions, most notably at the Orcas Island High School graduation every year.

Outside of teaching, Clancy enjoys dancing and gardening, and she is an artist. After she retires, Clancy would like to get back into some of the activities she has dropped to pursue teaching. She would like to explore more with baking and cooking. She is also excited for whatever new may come her way. She said “that’s the fun part, wanting to see what unfolds. You know, you start doing a little of this, you meet this new person, you try this new thing, and next thing you know, something new is happening in your life.”

When reflecting on her memories while working here, and what she has enjoyed about her teaching career, she said “I like the kids, I like teenagers, I like playing around with and challenging them, pushing them, helping them see stuff, listening to them talk, and being able to watch them grow up.” She also cherishes the friends she has made at the school, and will continue to stay connected in the community.

Wrightsman has traveled all over the world. She has been a school counselor and an English teacher in Olympia Washington, London, Munich, Singapore, Mississippi, and several Department of Defense schools, and has gone on school trips to China, India, and Egypt. She started college wanting to be a French major, then decided she wanted to teach english, and then decided to also learn counseling. She then got a masters degree before starting her work in the education system. Wrightsman said “I went into education simply because I like to learn, I like people, I like kids. It made sense for me.”

Being from Anacortes, she said moving to Orcas Island was “like coming home.” One of her best friends from childhood lives on Orcas, and she helped Wrightsman find a place to settle down here. She worked as a substitute teacher until the counselor position opened up at Orcas Island High School. She is very grateful for the amazing school community. She said “I have to say, some of the best, the brightest, and the nicest people have been here at Orcas. There was no way I could have been in education for 47 years otherwise.”

Outside of school, Wrightsman loves to travel. It is what took her on her teaching journey across the globe. She also enjoys reading, cooking, and gardening/landscaping. She landscapes her yard, and likes to experiment with different plants, seeing what does and does not grow. It is a creative outlet, trying different varieties of plants to see what works best and what the deer decide to eat.

After retiring, she will continue her traveling, visiting friends and family. She would like to either volunteer or work at least a couple of days a week to keep active while also allowing the relaxation of retirement. She will continue to garden and cook and read, and she is looking forward to whatever new adventures come her way.

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