According to the Iowa Department of Education, an ideal elementary school class should have 20 students. The average Sioux City classroom has an average of 23. Which means a little more preparation is needed on the teacher’s part.
With more than 14,000 students in Sioux City set to begin school in a week, all of the district’s 1000 teachers are preparing their rooms and finalizing their lesson plans. It’s a process that can take a few weeks, but Fran Wetzbarger, a third grade teacher at Perry Creek Elementary, has been preparing for the entire summer.
“I’ve learned that the better you plan and the more preparation you put in ahead of time, the more you can focus on the students once they come through that door,” Wetzbarger said.
Wetzbarger is beginning her third year at Perry Cree, but her 15th of teaching in the area. Her class this year has 21 students, only a little bit higher than the state’s ideal of 20. But last year she had 28. Even with very large classes, Wetzbarger says numbers aren’t important, it’s the lessons that matter most.
“I think what you need to do is tailor your instruction to the student needs,” the third grade teacher said. “So, if they are needing more personalized and individualized instruction no matter what your headcount numbers are.”
Wetzbarger also says the district’s commitment to consistency and technology in its curriculum also helps her manage a classroom that’s a bit larger than ideal.
“We have a Canvas work space that we use online that houses all our curriculum material,” Wetzbarger said, describing one of the tools she uses. “It’s sorted by subject and by grade level so I can go out there and get the latest math assessment that’s needed.”
Wetzbarger and her colleagues around the district look to have everything ready, no matter how many students they have, when the first bell rings on August 23.