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News and resources regarding COVID-19

Lessons from a Top Educator for Teaching Students at Home

Sioux City Community Schools

Parents of many students across Siouxland are now wrapping up a fifth week of trying to teach from home.  An award-winning educator provided Sheila Brummer with advice on helping our young ones during this national health crisis.


Many parents might feel a bit overwhelmed taking over the role of teacher and Sioux City Principal Amy Denney says that’s expected.

“Allow yourself some grace with this. This was something we didn’t have time to prepare for or plan ahead.”

Denney, the principal of Perry Creek Elementary and Clark Early Childhood Center, says there’s something even more important than reading, writing and arithmetic right now.

“Make sure their kids know that they are safe and loved.  And, anything you can do to provide structure and routine those are very important pieces to help your child at home.”

The Sioux City School District adopted a “voluntary continuous learning program” since an order to stay home started on March 16th. 

Junior and senior high students access lessons online. Younger grades receive packets of materials and contact from teachers.

But, Principal Denny does worry about students who don’t have the support of parents or guardians.

“When families aren’t able to work and home situations aren’t stable that’s obviously my most important concern way ahead academic concerns.  So, any way you can help those families is so critical.”

Principal Denney, who was recently named Iowa’s Elementary Principal of the Year, says she reached out to 60 vulnerable families.

“But, across the district it is a much greater percentage because Sioux City is so poverty stricken.”

The school district also set up more than two dozen food sites to help during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Principal Denney says can’t wait for the health threat to end so she can see students in person.

Superintendent of Schools Paul Gausman also sent out a message to parents this week with some extra tips for parents.  They include setting up designated spaces for learning, even go outdoors!  Create a daily routine by setting a goal of two to four hours of academic engagement each day. Find fun projects to do and most of all spend time with your children.  He also says providing your child a loving safe and stable environment is best!

Amy Denney is principal of Perry Creek Elementary and Clark Early Childhood Center in Sioux City. She was recently named the 2020 Iowa Elementary Principal of the Year by the School Administrators of Iowa.  She has been principal in the school district since 2008 after starting her career as a first-grade teacher.  

Another district employee was also honored. Kim Buryanek, the associate superintendent for the Sioux City Community School District, was named the  Central Office Administrator of the Year.

News release from the Sioux City Community School District:

Amy Denney, principal of Perry Creek Elementary and Clark Early Childhood Center in Sioux City, has been named the 2020 Iowa Elementary Principal of the Year by the School Administrators of Iowa.

“Congratulations to Amy Denney for being selected for this honor! She is that special principal who chooses to address issues through bold and innovative ways that ultimately benefit everyone in the building. Furthermore, she excels in developing meaningful relationships with her peers, staff, parents, and especially students. Amy epitomizes what it means to be a school leader,” said SAI Executive Director Roark Horn.                    

“I am so honored to be recognized as the 2020 Iowa Elementary Principal of the Year. I am blessed to work in Iowa and the Sioux City Community School District, where I have had the opportunity to learn from the best educators and school leaders. My students, families, teachers, and staff at Perry Creek Elementary and Clark Early Childhood Center inspire me each day to be the best principal I can be. I am surrounded by the most dedicated staff who share a strong commitment to serve our students and families. As we navigate this most challenging time in education, I have so much confidence in the educators and leaders across Iowa doing whatever it takes to meet the growing needs of our students and families. Each challenge in life provides an opportunity for leadership, collaboration, and innovation. We will get through this with the support of each other and will come out stronger than before,” Denney expressed.               

She has served as the buildings’ principal since 2016. Previously she served as principal at other buildings within the district beginning in 2008. Her career began as a first-grade teacher. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Morningside College and a master’s in education administration from Wayne State College. 

She was nominated by her peers, selected by a committee of Iowa elementary principals, and will be recognized at the association’s annual conference. The National Association of Elementary School Principals will also honor her as a National Distinguished Principal this fall in Washington, D.C.

SAI, a statewide organization founded in 1987, represents more than 1,800 Iowa educational administrators. SAI's mission is to support, encourage and develop Iowa’s educational leaders and learners.