In its sixth year, the Yaak School Arts and Crafts Fair brought in $2,880 on Saturday that will help to support extra costs such as the greenhouse and other activities, and visitors from as far away as Chicago stopped to take part.
Most of the money comes from the silent auction, said Yaak School Trustee Pam Fuqua, but even the bake sale held by the Yaak Women’s Club to raise money for the school library brought in $402.
From when she was helping to get things organized from scratch just a few years ago to what the fair is today, the community has become ever gradually more involved, Fuqua said.
“The community has really stepped up, and the people around here are just great to support the school,” she said.
And that goes year round. When the school’s only eighth grade student graduated this spring, the main classroom was packed with community members who came to show their support for him, said Rose Wilson, the school’s teacher and principal.
Wilson was originally the teacher at the school from 2002 to 2006, but left when she became burnt out on all the work coupled with meeting the new requirements for the federal No Child Left Behind program, she said.
Last year she came back, and has been relieved and impressed with how much the school board has taken over things like fundraising.
“And the community had really stepped up also, to keep this school open,” she said. “It’s been real important to them.”
The fair has vendors from all around the area show up to contribute.
Pat Shirk, a retiree from Libby was at the fair selling “deer resistant flowers” made from plastic dishware and woven items she makes.
“I just like doing it for the schools,” she said. “Since I don’t have kids in the schools anymore, I don’t really get a chance to contribute to the school systems, so this is kind of my little way. And I like all these people up here, and it’s a fun drive up here.”
For the local community and the school board members, not unlike those who came together in 1932 to first build the school, the choice to give support is an easy one, Fuqua said.
“We see the kids come into this school from a variety of walks of life and a variety of situations — sometimes with grandparents, sometimes foster children — and this teacher is able to take each one of them and give them what they need,” she said. “And it’s wonderful to see. It’s just wonderful to see.”
Jaden Holly’s parents, Angie Holly and Jonny Jameson, also have two younger children enrolled in the Yaak School.
The family moved from Spokane last year to a home Jameson’s grandparents built in the 1970s.
“It’s nice, because it’s close knit, there’s one-on-one attention,” Holly said. “It’s more personalized.”
The environment means there’s little chance of any kind of bullying, and the children look out for each other, she said.
“You don’t get lost,” Jameson said. For Jaden, who had struggled with grades in Spokane, that made a big difference.
Wilson said that Jaden Holly had misgivings about moving from a larger city school to the one room schoolhouse, but after the first quarter, he made staggering progress.
“He was a sponge when he really got going,” she said.
And the entire school is doing similarly well.
“They’re kind of kicking butts this year,” Jameson said.
Wilson said that at the end of the school year, around half of the students tested two grade levels above their age in all subjects. All of the other students either tested high or at grade level in all of their subjects.
For Wilson, it’s a lot of work teaching so many different grades, but it’s worth it, she said. This past year, all but two of the students were new to the district, and most of them were behind their grade level.
But, since she can tailor the curriculum to the student, Wilson said she works with each student in each subject where they are.
“I don’t teach to the grade. I teach to the student,” she said. “The beauty of this place is that you can do that.”
Jameson and Holly said that the one challenge is lack of access to school sports and a large pool of children for socializing.
But, living in the Yaak they also have a close family that reads together and eats dinner together, Jameson said. As for sport, he said he is eyeing the blank backboard at the Community Center with thoughts of getting a hoop up for the kids to use in the winter.
Wilson said the school also does some engagements and cooperative things with the McCormick School, and she hopes to see that grow, including possibly an athletic field day.
Making it work
“It’s just some finesse, kind of a dance,” Wilson said.
In most subjects, she will get one set of students to a point in the lesson where they can work on their own, then move to the next group.
But in others, such as language arts, she can actually work with most of the students together, she said. She will present the students with sentences geared to the highest grade level, and let them see how many they can get.
Having all the students working together introduces another dynamic, as students learn things from what is going on outside of their own studies.
Wilson said she began teaching a fourth grade girl decimals, and had the student tell her she already knew them from listening to Wilson work with a fifth grade student. When Wilson tested the student on her knowledge, she found the student really did understand the lesson.
“I’ve had students who learn division first, because they can’t get a grasp on multiplication, but they get division. So, once they get that, they work backwards,” Wilson said.
But being both the principal and the teacher is still a juggling act, even with the help of an aid and the school Clerk Diane Downey to handle things such as payroll, financial reports and grants, Wilson said.
Unlike the one room schools of years ago, there are programs, requirements and mandates to keep track of, Wilson said.
“This would be very difficult for a new teacher,” she said. In her 30th year of teaching, Wilson left retirement in Spokane to return to teach in the Yaak last year.
But, next year will be her final year, so she is happy that the school seems to have found a promising prospect who has taught for 24 years.
For now, though, she is enjoying her time.
“I just absolutely love teaching here. It’s very fulfilling,” Wilson said. She enjoys seeing progress as students who hated a subject because they never learned a building block begin to enjoy the subject after that missing piece is put in place.
“That’s kind of fulfilling to see the light bulbs go off, and you see them a lot here,” she said.