The new school year is here, and teachers in all three county districts say they are focused on how to reach each and every child at that child’s level.
Every fall brings changes and new faces. One of the biggest changes for the Centerville Community School District is that third graders will attend Lakeview Elementary. Last spring the district closed Mystic Elementary and Cincinnati Elementary as a result of declining enrollment, says Anthony Ryan, superintendent of schools for both Centerville and Moulton-Udell.
As a result of the closures, the district needed more classrooms in the three elementary buildings in Centerville. Lakeview had the most free square footage, Ryan says, so third graders will attend Lakeview, which will also continue to house fourth through sixth grades.
Kindergarten through third grade previously had six sections each district-wide and will now have five sections each. The five third-grade classrooms will be clustered together in the Lakeview wing closest to the playground to ease the children’s transition to the upper elementary level, Ryan says. There will also be five sections of fourth and fifth grades, but only four sections of sixth grade because that class is smaller overall.
The Centerville district will have two new teachers. Tim Roush will teach social studies at Centerville High School. Emily Turner will teach Spanish partly at Centerville and partly at Moulton-Udell, where she will also be the assistant volleyball coach.
New hires at Moulton-Udell include Geralyn Harnish, who will teach 7–12 science; Stephanie Bremer, who will teach preschool; and Brenda Korthaus, who will teach agriculture.
The Moravia Community School welcomes several new teachers this year, according to Brad Breon, the superintendent and elementary principal. New hires include Jacquelyn Hunter in English and social studies, Shari Witt in elementary special education, Aaron Fitzgerald in K–12 vocal music, Amber Svoboda in high school math and Laura DePrizio in high school special education. Traci Main, who previously taught at Moravia, will be back this year. The school will also have a new transportation director, Willard Armstrong.
Another new face at Moravia will be reading specialist Julie Sealine, whose position was created as part of the reading program being implemented this fall.
Each day, elementary students will have a 90-minute block focused on literacy. All teachers in the elementary building, including Sealine, will work with small groups during that time. Breon says about 5 percent of children need intense help with literacy, and Sealine will provide that by working one-on-one with students throughout the day.
“I am anticipating dramatic improvements in three years,” Sealine says.
The program will go from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade, but the biggest focus is on pre-kindergarten to third grade, Breon says. This is because research shows children who are behind in reading after third grade rarely catch up to their peers. And children who read up to their grade level at that point rarely fall behind.
Last year Gov. Terry Branstad visited the school as part of his reading initiative. Jason Glass, director of the Iowa Department of Education, will visit the school this October to see the program in action.
Dividing children into smaller groups by reading level not only helps target students with deficiencies, it also means advanced readers will be challenged more. Breon says children will be reevaluated frequently as to their reading group placement.
Breon adds that this program brings out teachers’ best teaching abilities.
“There are teachers who will do very well teaching upper-level students, and there are teachers who have great skills at teaching lower-level students,” he says.
Sealine joins the district from the lab school at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Mo. She has experience teaching first and fourth grade, and she also served as a professor mentoring college students who were becoming teachers. Similarly, in Moravia, Sealine will not only work with children but will also train teachers on how to teach literacy.
Last year she and her husband, Amend Sealine, decided it was time to make a change. She was interested in the Moravia position, and he applied at the Pioneer Hi-Bred plant in Hedrick. They interviewed on the same day and were both successful. Their son Hayes, 4, will attend Moravia’s preschool program.
She did not specialize in literacy at the lab school, but literacy is her passion as a teacher.
“I love the science of it and what allows children to pick up on certain things and how you can push them to infer and draw conclusions in their reading that essentially allows them to be great thinkers,” she says.
Facing the future
When Centerville High School students arrive each morning, Principal Roger Raum will be there to greet them.
Raum comes to Centerville after serving for six years as principal at Nodaway Valley High School in Greenfield. Before that he was the 9–12 assistant principal and counselor at Aplington-Parkersburg High School.
“I’ve really been impressed with the community the first few weeks here,” Raum says. “I believe they really care about their school. I believe there is the potential for becoming a model institution for 3A schools.”
Raum earned a bachelor’s of business administration from the University of Iowa and worked in the private sector until the early 1990s. When his daughter, Allison, was young, Raum started thinking about problems with education.
“As she began nearing kindergarten age, it really came upon me,” he says. “I was talking to some friends of mine and they were talking about some of their frustrations with education, and I thought, ‘Those are going to be issues I am going to face.’ ”
He was looking for a career change, so he earned his teaching certification from the University of Northern Iowa. He later earned a master’s in education from Loras College.
Raum taught business for one year but soon moved into counseling at Dunkerton High School. He also coached football, basketball, track and baseball.
Raum’s wife, Marian Raum, currently runs the talented and gifted program at Creston High School. For this year, at least, they will be apart during the week.
“That’s something we’ve done in the past, and it’s part of being upward-mobile,” he says.
Raum says his main goal is updating education, including transitioning from teacher-centered classrooms to student-centered classrooms. His philosophy is an education that is “more responsive to the individual student’s needs [and] prepares them better for the way our society has changed over the last 30 years.”
In the past, he says, teachers have often taught to the middle. But his goal is different: to teach to students at the top, bottom and middle.
“We need to teach students not only contentbut strategies for approaching problems in the future,” Raum says.
Building strong foundations
There will be a new face in the Moulton-Udell kindergarten classroom this year following the retirement of longtime kindergarten teacher Connie Gillaspie, but that face won’t be new to the students. Sarah Mason is moving to kindergarten from the preschool classroom, and she is bringing her most recent class of preschoolers with her.
One of them is her own daughter, Miriam Mason.
“I had her in preschool, and now I’ll have her in kindergarten — not that many teachers can say that,” Mason says.
Mason says she had a lot of role models growing up who were teachers. Her mom was an early childhood special education teacher, her dad was a math teacher, and her dad’s parents and siblings were all in education as well.
She met her husband, Levi Mason, when he was studying at McPherson College in McPherson, Kan. That is also where she earned her teaching degree.
“We met at church and were friends for five years. Then God did one of those ah-ha moments, and we started dating and got married,” Mason says.
Her husband was a 1998 graduate of Moulton-Udell High School, and a couple of years ago they moved to his family’s farm. He works at Centerville Tractor and Implement.
Mason taught preschool for six years in Kansas before teaching it in Moulton. She says it was a good move for her family.
“I really, really enjoy Iowa,” she says. “The people are friendly, especially in Moulton. The teachers really are like a family in the school.”
Mason says she worked closely with Gillaspie and learned a lot in the past two years about children transitioning from preschool to kindergarten.
“In my other places of employment I never got to see what the kids were like in kindergarten because we were at a separate building, but at Moulton the preschool is right there,” she says.
Mason says her favorite part of teaching is reaching each and every student in the way that student responds to best.
“To be able to develop lessons to meet each child is a challenge, yet intriguing,” she says. “That is my favorite part of teaching: seeing their eyes sparkle, and they say, ‘I finally get it!’ ”