Same mission, new goals at Marshalltown Christian School

T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ The Marshalltown Christian School (MCS) offers students K-8 a Christ-focused education experience where classroom size stays 15 pupils and below. Here, first year teacher Sarah Braun (pictured) teaches fifth and sixth grade science students about plants.

The Marshalltown Christian School (MCS) offers students K-8 a Christ-focused education experience where classroom size stays 15 students and below, and the building has what second-year Principal Bethany Wirin calls a “family-like” atmosphere.

What’s new for the

2018-19 school year

In past school years, math and reading classes had students from two or more grades all learning in the same classroom setting.

“We really wanted fifth to eighth graders to have their own math and reading everyday – 85 minutes of each – so that we’re not having to choose,” Wirin said. “In previous years, we always had a combined classroom where we had two grades or more per classroom. It’s possible, but not the best situation, to have 15 minutes of instruction for seventh grade math, and then you say, OK work independently while I stand here and just turn to this group of kids and do eighth grade math for 15 minutes. It’s tough flipping back and forth, and some kids do that just fine, but some kids don’t, so we just thought we’re going to break it all up, and so we have four teachers in the morning in four classrooms.”

The school also welcomed two new instructors this year – Sarah Braun, a fifth and sixth grade science teacher, and Barbara Perry, who teaches seventh and eighth grade science. This is Braun’s first year working as a teacher, while Perry has 30 years experience in academia.

“I really like working with the kids. They are so sweet and I really like the staff,” Braun said. “Everyone has been so encouraging and it’s making my first year of teaching go much more smoothly than it might have gone otherwise.”

Wirin said she welcomes her staff to look beyond traditional classroom concepts when planning curriculum, field trips and projects.

“In Dr. Perry’s class, the kids are asking for soil samples from people they know from other states and even other countries. They will then look at the soil under a microscope and compare the samples,” Wirin said. “We welcome thinking outside the box. It’s really nice here because we do have maybe a little more latitude to try some new things. I like it when the teachers are excited about the material they’re doing because it gets the kids more excited. This year, we’re really trying to engage the older kids more who have their own opinions and ideas about what they want to see and have responsibility for.”

This school year marks the first occasion in which all grades spend lunch and recess time together.

“We are already seeing the fruit of that change, because we have big kids sitting next to little kids at lunch and helping them open up their fruit cups and Go-Gurts and it really gives the older students a chance to build their own confidence and recognize that the little kids really do look up to them,” Wirin said. “At recess, we saw that the older girls were running the jump rope for the little girls, and the teacher just loved seeing that.”

The future

Currently, 56 students are enrolled at MCS, with a staff of five full-time and two part-time teachers.

“Enrollment is a little bit up from last year,” Wirin said. “We have some classes that are at capacity and are on a waiting list. The school’s board set a cap of 15 students per class.”

Many of the students at MCS are dual-enrolled, spending some afternoons in the public schools taking music courses and playing sports. While the school does have a music class, for K-2, Wirin said they’d like to see music education expand.

“I would like to eventually have a music program – parents would love to see more programming like that,” she said.

Wirin said she also envisions creating a unit of study in which pupils can immerse themselves in a historic time period.

“For next year, we’re looking into building a study unit where we would have a theme for even a full quarter, where it would be a period of time where we’re looking at its science, history, political history, literature, music and art, trying to encompass everything in that time period. But we have a lot of work to do to build up to that,” she said.

When asked what she values most about what the school offers, Wirin said she enjoys its small, family atmosphere.

“That’s something people have always said about this school – early on it felt like a family-like atmosphere, and that’s really important to me,” she said.

For more information, the school may be reached at: 641-753-8824.

—–

Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at:

641-753-6611 or sjordan@timesrepublican.com