How often do you meet someone whose passion for teaching French burns as brightly as his scarves? It’s a rare combination of attributes, but the teacher that possesses them works here at The Academy.
An Ohio native, Mr. Icsman grew up in Sandusky, and went to grade school at St. Peter and Paul Elementary school. Even though he didn’t start learning French until high school, Mr. Icsman says that he has been interested in it from a very young age. In the second grade, one of his closest friends who lived three blocks away spoke French. “Her parents came from France, and spoke nothing but French at home,” he says. “And so when I would go over to visit her, and spend time with her, I heard nothing but French. And that set me on my path of ‘I’m going to learn this language someday.’” Just like many of us here at SUA, he started learning French as a high school freshman at Sandusky High School.
After graduating, Mr. Icsman went on to study German, French, and Secondary Education at the University of Cincinnati. During his junior year at UC, he traveled to Strasbourg to study French at the Université de Sciences Humaines et Sociale, and came back senior year to finish his degree. After college, Mr. Icsman went to Germany to study German at the Goethe Institut in Schwȁbisch-Hall, Germany.
Before coming to St. Ursula Academy, Mr. Icsman first taught French for one year at St. Paul High School in Norwalk, Ohio, a small town near Sandusky. He also taught German and French at Ursuline Academy for 24 years (but we’ll forgive him). When asked how he became interested in German: “It’s sort of the same thing [as how I became interested in French], but a little bit later. When I was in the seventh grade, [...] I met a boy by the name of Christian Gross, and his whole family was German. And when I would go over to spend time at his house, his family spoke nothing but German. And he actually would speak nothing but German to them, so I was also intrigued by that.” Besides French and German, Mr. Icsman also can speak “enough Italian to function.”
Mr. Icsman has been teaching for 39 years (since 1979!), and while he currently teaches French, he has no preference between French and German. “I enjoyed teaching both German and French for 24 years [at Ursuline] and I enjoy teaching just French in my years here at Saint Ursula.” His interest in teaching can be traced all the way back to his years at Sandusky High School. “I had a really fantastic French teacher who really inspired me." Now that he’s a teacher himself, his favorite thing about teaching is sharing his passion for the French language and culture with other people, especially his students. It is clear that Mr. Icsman brings his enthusiasm for teaching and creative energy to the classroom every day. “I love French class with Mr. Icsman,” says Elizabeth Volk ‘21. “He is always energetic and interested in the subject.” Emily Wachter ‘18 says, “I remember how fun Mr. Icsman made learning in class. He’s so enthusiastic and a joy to be around. I wouldn’t have taken any other language course.” Gracie Davis ‘19 adds, “I remember the day after the Cincinnati Enquirer came out with their issue that featured the French Honor Society Induction Ceremony - I was walking up to my next class and Mr. Icsman came running down the stairs with the newspaper in hand. He was bouncing off the walls (as per usual) and it made my whole day so much happier to know how much he cared about his students and how much he still does, even when he doesn't have them in class.”
Here at SUA, Mr. Icsman teaches French II, III, honors French IV, and Honors Senior French Seminar. He also moderates French Honors Society. He is taking a group of students on a trip to France over Easter Break. The trip is primarily a home-stay, in houses in the Loire Valley, and everyone will stay with a French family. “Hopefully during that time, they will speak nothing but French, and be really immersed in French language, and what it’s like to live with a family and do some of their daily routine, just like they do here with their own family,” he says. Students going on the trip will be able to visit the many of the castles in the Valley, as well as numerous places in Paris on a three-day sightseeing trip.
Mr. Icsman has led too many student immersion trips to count. He has been traveling with students since his first year of teaching, when he took a group of high schoolers to Quebec. “I have taken students to Europe numerous times. Again, I couldn’t even begin to count; since I started my teaching career,” he adds. Mr. Icsman himself has traveled to France a multitude of times. His very first trip was over the summer after his junior year in high school. “My parents reluctantly allowed me to travel to France for six weeks to study French [...] at a lycée (high school) over the summer,” he says. “I studied for four weeks in Strasbourg, where I went to the university later on, and I studied two weeks in Paris as well.”
But what does Mr. Icsman do outside of school? He’s been singing in the Dayton Opera for fourteen seasons, and has been involved in “too many productions to name.” Also on his shortlist: going to classical music concerts, trying new foods at interesting restaurants, spending time with his Shih Tzu, Tita. Oh, and adding scarves to his ever-widening collection. He currently has twelve.