Maybell Tuesday morning started out a little bit confusing for Craig resident Bill Ronis.
As the main teacher at Maybell School, he rarely sees people come through his parking lot, but that day he saw several, all of whom seemed to have odd reasons for being there. When he started to see folks he saw more regularly descend on the school, his suspicions that something was up were confirmed, with the results being much more pleasant than he had expected earlier in the day.
“They went to great lengths to hide it from me,” he chuckled.
What Ronis’ friends, colleagues and some people he had yet to be introduced to were hiding was the fact that he had been named a Peabody Energy Leader in Education, one of a dozen teachers in Moffat and Routt counties who will be acknowledged throughout the 2013-14 school year for their dedication to students. The award comes complete with a $1,000 check, presented to him Tuesday, and a seat reserved at next fall’s awards banquet at The Steamboat Grand, which will honor all the year’s top educators.
Maybell School is a unique case for the area because of the kind of classroom setup it offers. With 18 students in first through eighth grades, it’s one of the last one-room schoolhouses in the state.
This year saw it change its name from Maybell Elementary as it shifted from a K-5 learning space to K-8 and sought out more students from Craig. It almost looked like the school would close with only three potential students this year, but Ronis didn’t want to see that happen.
The school is open to students from all across Moffat County, with some traveling from as far as near Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge to attend classes each day. Ronis, in his third consecutive year and fifth overall, has been very attentive with each of his students, utilizing the custom-made STEAM-powered learning curriculum — science, technology, energy, engineering, art, agriculture and math — which also implements reading, writing and social studies.
“Everything I try to do stems off of science in some way,” Ronis said.
Although Ronis’ student body is about the same size as a single class in one of Craig’s elementary schools, the challenge is trying to reach a 7-year-old the same way you would someone in their early teen years.
“I think it’s the span of the grades that really kills you with this,” he said. “But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
Ridgeview Elementary School Principal Amber Clark, who also serves as Maybell’s principal, noted that students receive a well-rounded school day every day.
“Every child in Maybell has their own personalized educational plan, and Bill views their successes as his successes,” she said.
Clark was among those who stopped by to wish him well Tuesday, as did Ronis’ wife, Brec; Ridgeview teacher Crystal Miller; and Moffat County School District Superintendent Joe Petrone.
When he met the Peabody representatives who had been partially responsible for his selection for the award, Ronis said he was pleased to learn the decision between nine judges had been unanimous. He referred to NBC singing competition “The Voice” as an indicator of this.
“I turned all four chairs, that’s my new saying,” he said.
Ronis has yet to decide what to do with his check, but part of it likely will go toward the kids.
“I think we’ll have a pizza party or something like that to celebrate,” he said.
Andy Bockelman can be reached at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.