Rare Ratio Lures Teacher to One-Student School

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What motivates a 28-year-old teacher from Freeport, Ill., to pack her bags, buy a snowmobile, and accept a job on a remote ranch in Wyoming to instruct a class of one?

"That's quite a ratio," the teacher, Karla R. Swiggum, says.

For the past six years, Ms. Swiggum has taught in the Dakota Community School District 201--three years as a 5th-grade teacher; two years as a fine-arts instructor; and one year as a 2nd-grade teacher. The average class size, she said, was 22 to 25 students.

Now she'll be instructing 5th-grader Jake Joines, the 10-year-old son of the owners of the Goosewing Ranch.

Ms. Swiggum, a Wisconsin na6tive, says she accepted the teaching job at the ranch "because of the challenge of having one child and individualizing his curriculum," and also because of "the adventurousness of it all."

Goosewing is a guest ranch nestled in the mountains that caters in the winter to snowmobilers, hunters, and skiers. In fact, during the winter, she says, the ranch is only accessible by snowmobile--the nearest "big-small city" is Jackson, 35 miles to the south.

Ms. Swiggum says she will rent one of 12 guest cabins, one right by the lodge that is about "the size of a big bedroom."

"My schoolroom will be in there, too," she adds, "so it will be work at home."

Once a week, Ms. Swiggum, who is a cross-country skier, plans to take her student to the nearest rural school--the 50-student Kelly School, run by a husband-wife-and-son team--"for socialization purposes" and to work with other teachers in physical education and the arts.

Vol. 04, Issue 01

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