Back in the wooly days, when the likes of Butch Cassidy roamed Moffat County, one room school houses were the bulwarks of American education.
Today, the one room school house has pretty much disappeared. In the 1950s more than 2S3 one room school houses were active in Colorado. But "progress" over the decades has replaced them with sprawling schools resembling malls, an exploding student population, hallways of lockers, and separation by grades.
But there is a one room school house in Moffat County that's still going strong Maybell Elementary School.
Actually, Maybell's school has two rooms, a gym and 11 students.
But Maybell school officials have proven that size doesn't matter.
Maybell Elementary is one of 19 schools in Colorado honored in Sept. with the John Irwin Colorado Schools of Excellence award.
"Winning this award was a strong indication that the types of things we're doing are helping the children achieve their goals, and that's the important thing we're instructing the children at their individual levels instead of by grades and we're being successful," Linda McCabe, the teacher at Maybell Elementary, said.
Each of the schools receiving the John Irwin award was evaluated as outstanding related to five criteria. In addition, at least 80 percent of each of the school's students scored proficient or above on a composite of the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) scores.
McCabe said the CSAP is a very challenging test, with emphasis on higher order thinking skills instead of computation or multiple choice. "The students write down their answers and then give reasons for why they think that way. It actually takes a closer look at the concept and understanding the child has instead of just repeating back so they're accountable for the information that they know," she said.
Maybell Elementary Principal Pete Bergmann said, "Emphasis for winning the award has to be placed on the teamwork of all the staff working together with the community toward the children's achievements and success." He is also the principal of Ridgeview Elementary in Craig. "The award shows Maybell Elementary is a quality school. We, as staff and parents, are very proud of Maybell."
In her fourth year at the school, McCabe is assisted by two part-time instructional aids, Lynn Haskins and Julie Jantz, and a wagonload of volunteers from the community. The students range from first through fourth grades and meet four days a week instead of the typical five McCabe felt she needed more time in a day to develop and present language concepts so each day goes from 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., longer than in other schools.
Four-day work weeks have their high points. "I like having Fridays off," first-grader Talen said.
Third graders Megan and Taylor agree. They've been "best friends" at Maybell since first grade. Taylor likes math and recess the best. "Like, the daily problems are kind of fun to do," she said.
Megan, however, said some of the problems are hard and she prefers reading. Both are reading books on the ninth grade level. "I really like it that we have certain colors on our books," Megan said. "Ours is the red and blue level." McCabe created color coding on the school books to correspond with age/reading levels color-coded on books in the Moffat County Library in Craig.
Maybell students get a lot of one-on-one time with McCabe, Haskins and Jantz. They also join together for group activities like helping volunteer Nancy O'Connor at reading time or vocal music volunteer Sherrie Johnson, a former teacher who now owns the Maybell Restaurant and they act like one big family, helping each other with ideas and solving problems.
According to McCabe, when students of different ages and grades work together in the same classroom, they learn to interact with one another like a family. They encourage, teach, mentor and help each other. The fourth grade students often study with and read to the first graders. The result is an enhanced learning environment and greater skills in working together as a group.
Teaching is a special part of McCabe's life. For the past 25 years she has taught in small and large school districts in Oklahoma and Colorado. Education held a strong emphasis in her own home she grew up with her dad on the school board in a rural community and she said education has always been a priority in her life.
"Linda does a great job," Bergmann said. "She individualizes the academic program. Research shows the smaller the class size, the greater the learning. We do everything we can to encourage similar techniques in the other elementary schools in this district but it's a lot harder to get 280 students and 30 teachers on the same plate than it is with one teacher and 11 students."
McCabe has an individual instructional plan for every single student.