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Small-School Teachers Connect

Story by Taashi Rowe
Published 9/18/13

Teachers discuss real-life scenarios in small-group settings.

Some 20 teachers who work in one-room school houses around the Columbia Union Conference, gathered Sunday and Monday at the union’s headquarters in Columbia, Md., for training and encouragement. Ileana Espinosa, an associate in the union’s Office of Education who organized the training, said the purpose of the training was three-fold. “We wanted these teachers to feel special, important, validated and affirmed,” she said. “We also wanted them to make connections with teachers who had the same workload and have them learn something practical that they can take back to improve their personal and professional lives.”
The training, which also included several conference superintendents, had a segment on the new North American Division Math and Science curriculum as well as segments on time management, marketing, fruitful pastor/teacher partnerships and spirituality. This is the first in a series of training planned for small-school teachers. This year training welcomed those who teach grades 1 through 8. Next year’s training will be for teachers of grades 1 through 4 and the following year for those who teach grades 5 through 8.
Jennifer Ewers, who teaches at the Greenbrier Valley Academy in Lewisburg, W.Va., is in her first year teaching in a one-room school house. She has a total of 12 students in kindergarten, first, third and fifth through eight grades. She admits that there are some challenges to teaching in a small school such as not having access to organized sports or making sure that all students are busily learning throughout the day.
However, “I love it,” she said. “When you have the little kids, the older kids almost have to act better because they are examples. There’s just such a community feeling and character building. I also love how the little kids listen when I’m teaching something to the older kids and the older kids listen when I’m teaching older kids.”
Espinosa agrees, “We have research that shows that one way of solidifying learning is teaching to someone else younger so that is one of the strength of small schools.”
She also lists some of the other benefits of small schools: “Students also have individualized attention with teacher. We may not always be able to have an orchestra or a band, but we are more likely able to take a lot of field trips to important places. We may not be able to have sports teams but we are able to do other games and activities that larger schools aren’t able to. We treat small schools like Cinderellas, however, they should be very proud. Our statistics for our church shows they do just as well as larger schools and sometimes even better academically over all.”
Ewers, who entered her fifth year of teaching this fall, is new to West Virginia and to teaching in a one-room school house, came to the training hoping to learn something from teachers who have been at it a lot longer than she has. She left, not only with tips and strategies for a successful year, but also with a reminder that she is not just teaching reading, writing and arithmetic, but she is also daily introducing her students to Jesus.

Ileana Espinosa (right) talks with Jennifer Ewers, the new teacher at the Greenbrier Valley Academy in Lewisburg, W.Va.

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