Karla Crim has been Karla Colcleasure for almost 30 years now but once upon a time, the tall, fun-loving Karla was a student in the tiny community of Sidney, Texas, where she made good grades, had a lot of friends, played basketball, and did all of the others things that go hand in hand with being a teenager. Karla graduated from SHS, went to Tarleton State University, graduated with a degree in education, and eventually became a very respected math teacher in the Comanche school system.
And then, in 2005, her life went full circle when she returned to her roots in the Sidney system, this time sitting at the big desk.
I must admit that I’ve often wondered about that decision. Having taught in what I consider a very small school system for years, and holding to the idea that a slightly larger system would provide many more opportunities for our kiddos, it is hard for me to understand the need for these very tiny schools. In fact, as small as Comanche is, there have been many years when any one grade in that ISD held more students than the entire Sidney system. So why keep this little school, when just a few miles down the road is a school system that could very easily absorb every student into its fold?
I went to Karla Colcleasure with this exact question this past week. What is it about this tiny, tiny school that has captured this fabulous teacher, a woman with more energy than anyone I know?
“I don’t even know where to start,” she began. “For one thing, I love the way everyone fits in at a small school. There is never anyone who is not accepted. It is almost as if our students accept those who are ‘different’ because they assume that it is those differences that have brought them to Sidney. With only 9-10 in an entire class, they are all friends,” Karla explained.
“I also believe our students get a better education in Sidney than they would in a larger system; in fact, many would not make it in a larger school because they need the one on one attention that we are able to provide. Don’t get me wrong. We are not a self-paced school like some of the alternative schools are, but because we are so small, our teacher-student ratio is low, and we can provide a much more personal mode of teaching.”
As far as change goes in Sidney, there hasn’t been a lot of it. Karla’s mom and dad both graduated from Sidney High School, where her mom had only about 12 students in her graduating class. There have been a few changes, however.
“When I was in school, everyone participated in sports. That is not the case today; however, those who do participate in extracurricular activities pretty much have to participate in everything: sports, FFA, one act play, etc. If they did not do that, we would not be able to offer those activities. We just don’t have enough students.”
But what about college? Can Sidney ISD actually prepare students for post high school education?
“This past year, we graduated nine students. Eight enrolled in college and one went into the navy. We are beginning to get more college bound kids. The difference is that when I was in school, most students were actually from Sidney. Now, a tremendous number are from Comanche, probably because their parents went to a small school, or else they just don’t fit in at Comanche. They usually find their niche in Sidney.
“The bottom line is that I love teaching in Sidney because I never get bored. I have seven different preps, and I teach the same kids year after year. I love doing that because I know their strengths and weaknesses. I know where we need to work, and this allows me to get them where they need to be.”
And then, the personality that is distinctly Karla burst forth. “Besides, I LOVE six-man football so much more than an eleven-man game,” she laughed!”