Video What’s it Like in Idaho’s Smallest School District?
Stephanie Lewis, Head Teacher, Prairie School explains what it’s like working in Idaho’s smallest school district. Closed captions are available and a text transcript is provided in the Video Transcript section on this page.
Nestled between evergreen trees in Prairie, Idaho, across from a sweeping meadow with the Trinity Mountains rising behind it, sits a bright red schoolhouse. Stephanie Lewis (BA, elementary education, 2015) became the district’s only teacher in 2020. She teaches five students in kindergarten through 8th grade, including her daughter Lily, a seventh-grader.
“Before coming to Prairie, I spent my entire life in Boise and the surrounding areas,” Lewis said. “I was drawn to the one-room schoolhouse because of the challenge and the opportunity to stretch my creative teaching muscles.”
Her education at Boise State was thorough, she said, enhanced by
instructors who were passionate about education. “Their support continued long after I graduated and helped me continue to grow as an educator.”
In Prairie, she has the freedom to incorporate service- and project-based learning into her classroom and to develop lessons that span multiple grade levels.
“I became a teacher because I love the spark that happens when things click for kids, when they start to decode words, or when they are inspired to write a story, or when a math concept becomes clear,” Lewis said.
The one-room environment offers unique opportunities.
“The kids learn together and the older kids work with and help the younger kids,” Lewis said. “My favorite moment was when a struggling reader was starting to really grow. One of the seventh graders came up to me and said, ‘Mrs. Lewis, did you hear him read to me? He’s getting so good!’ The kids share in my teacher-joy and that’s something so special.”
Lewis is an invaluable asset to the community, District Clerk Victoria Davis said.
“If we weren’t able to secure a teacher for our district, families would either be forced to homeschool, send their students to boarding school or travel multiple hours a day for them to attend the nearest school.”
“I’m not just the teacher. I’m the receptionist, the attendance secretary and the person who finds and recruits speech pathologists. I’m the PE teacher, the principal, the counselor, the record keeper, the health teacher, the technical support, the computer lab teacher, the librarian, the music director and the person who makes sure we don’t run out of paper towels.” Stephanie Lewis
The Ireland family represents four generations of ranching in Prairie. Ryder Ireland, age 8, is a third-grader in Lewis’ class.
“We run around 600 head of mother cows and farm about 800 acres of hay ground,” Lori Ireland, Ryder’s mother, said. “If we are not on horseback, we are in tractors or building fences. When Ryder is not in school, he is right along with us learning the trade of being a rancher.”
Having a school with a talented teacher makes life “so much easier on us, trying to run a family business and raise a family at the same time,” Ireland said.
“Mrs. Lewis personalizes each kid’s learning to their individual needs. The knowledge Mrs. Lewis has and the willingness to learn more has been so great for my son.”