One-room schoolhouse tests teacher

She starts her career in a small town in North Idaho, and it’s an adjustment for the children, too.

LEWISTON TRIBUNESeptember 16, 2013 

Peck class main

Jessica Case started her first teaching job recently at Peck Elementary School.

BARRY KOUGH — Lewiston Tribune

PECK — In the back row of Peck Elementary’s only real classroom, Carter Hull swiveled back and forth, his Spider-Man backpack ticking like a metronome.

The first-grader was putting the finishing touches on his “what I did this summer” drawing when the crayons went tumbling off his desk. Carter went under the desk after them, peeking up at the kindergarten girls, who were wondering what he was up to.

Soon, the teacher, Ms. Case, swung by to see what was going on.

In a little brick building on the corner of Waskey and Main at the bottom of Big Canyon, Jessica Case, 22, roamed her classroom — checking the progress of her 14 students, covering every elementary grade except fourth.

Fresh out of Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, it was Case’s first day.

“I was a little bit nervous taking on such a big thing,” Case said of the remote position in the Orofino School District. “But everyone’s just like, ‘Let us know what you need.’ ”

After graduating last spring, Case wanted to be closer to her family and childhood home in Troy. While scouring the surrounding counties for a job, Case was unable to decide exactly what grade she wanted to teach, but she stumbled on a rare opening at Peck.

“I wanted to get back up north, looked for a job and ended up in Peck,” she said. “When I saw the opening, I was like, that would be so cool to have all the grades — challenging, but cool.”

Case replaced teacher Mindy Pollock after Pollock moved to a different position in the district. She ran the three-person show with a pair of paraprofessionals for 15 years.

In her new job in this 200-person town, Case has to be an all-around educator, answering the phone and taking care of administrative duties. It made the first day a transition for everyone.

“Sometimes it was funny because, all of us, we’re in an in-between phase,” Case said.

A new teacher was a big change for sixth-grader Madison Colwell after seven years with Mrs. Pollock. As the oldest student in the class, she welcomed “Ms. Case” to Peck.

“It’s neat having a new teacher; Mrs. Pollock was the only teacher I had ever had,” Madison said.

It’s the only school she has known, but Colwell still sees the appeal of being a modern Laura Ingalls Wilder.

“I think it’s neat that it’s a one-room schoolhouse,” Madison said. “You can’t get lost — you turn left it’s a classroom, right it’s the lab, forward it’s the lunchroom, and that’s it.”

Case is discovering that while balancing various curriculums with six different standards to meet is a challenge, she can look to older students like Madison and fifth-grader Kale Pettengill for help.

“It’s kind of unique with all the grades blended,” Madison said. “If you’re younger, you get help from the older kids.”

Kale said he likes sharing his school. But he said it can get annoying having students half his age running around.

“Maybe just a little bit, sometimes,” he said.

A small class also means plenty of one-on-one time for Case with all 14 students, a luxury in modern classrooms.

“It’s a lot easier in an environment like this than it sometimes is when you’re in a regular classroom with 25 to 30 kids,” she said.

Case said she’s still learning to balance on a steep learning curve, but the challenge is exciting. And, looking back on her first day, everything went according to plan.

“It went really well; they are a great group of kids,” Case said. “Today was great; hopefully, it stays that way.”

dbrown@lmtribune.com

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