Compeer's Fund for Rural America Supports Rural Teacher Corps Development During Covid

Grant builds capacity in four rural teacher corps programs in Illinois and Wisconsin.

June 9, 2021 |

Two recent Monmouth College TARTANS graduates discuss their final projects and future plans. In the background (virtually) are several Illinois retired rural teacher advisory board members, who provide input and feedback to TARTAN team members. Nathan (on left) will be teaching math in a rural high school and Holly on left will be teaching music in a rural school district. (Photo courtesy of Tammy LaPrad.

Compeer's Fund for Rural America awarded a $10,000 grant to the Rural Schools Collaborative to strengthen the capacity of four new rural teachers corps programs during the 2020-21 Covid-19 crisis. The goal of the Covid-19 Response Support Catalyst was to further the efforts of four emerging rural teacher corps programs in Compeer Financial’s service regions. Covid-19 presented and continues to present an array of new challenges to the rural teacher shortage.

The primary goal of the project was to develop support networks at Quincy University, Monmouth College, Western Illinois University, and University of Wisconsin-Platteville for their rural teacher preparation programs. To accomplish this aim RSC facilitated planning efforts that would support donor development, program marketing, place-based learning, and narrative building for these four Rural Teacher Corps efforts.

Representatives came together with RSC staff over Zoom calls to discuss their programs’ needs. Together, and based on successes seen at other rural teacher corps programs, each institution developed an outline for the projects. We are proud to report that each institution completed their goals by implementing the ideas outlined below:

The University of Wisconsin-Platteville connected to the Teton Science Schools. Place-based training took place for 20 of the School of Education department faculty and instruction staff. These trainings were imperative as the department is working toward developing a place-based framework around rurally responsive teacher preparation. Additionally, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville is in the process of rebranding a new licensure program. They have been able to use Compeer Financial’s funds to pay for research to track where graduates from their program grow up, and where they end up teaching. This information has become a key piece to demonstrate to upper administration and local and state partners why the University of Wisconsin-Platteville is uniquely positioned to be leading rural teacher preparation in the area. They have formally discovered that over over 80% of current graduates are teaching in rural school districts nearby.

Quincy University continued their efforts in their teacher education “grow your own” program, focusing on recruiting and retaining teachers in the rural communities that surround Quincy, IL. Their goal was to do this by increasing marketing opportunities to reach their educator alumni base and future students. In collaboration with the Marking Department at Quincy University, they created marketing materials to reach alums, current students, and future students. These materials included wall art, wall decals, and a branding and logo guide for the School of Education. Additionally, they have created teacher profiles to highlight their alumni teaching in the surrounding area on social media, and for inter-departmental use.

Monmouth College’s grant resulted in a guide, which documents and organizes the development and growth of their rural teacher preparation program, Teachers Allied with Rural Towns and Neighborhood Schools (TARTANS) over the next five years. Additionally, they created a system to capture and organize all data regarding the TARTANS program. Substantial historical qualitative research had already taken place, and these funds supplemented the research with quantitative data that continues the momentum collaboration between K-12 schools, rural communities, and Monmouth College.

Western Illinois University’s rural teacher corp program, the Great River Teacher Corps, entered into a partnership with Stark County Community Unit School District 100 in Stark County, Illinois. Together they have provided place-based educational activities at Stark County Elementary School and Stark County High School. Great River Teacher Corps students and Western Illinois University faculty have worked with Stark County administrators, teachers, and students on place-based education which culminated in presentations and implementation of student driven service projects. These groups identified an issue facing their community, researched those issues, proposed possible solutions to those issues, and ultimately made a recommendation as to how to best address the issue. As the culminating event for the project, each group of students presented their recommendations through an event to the community at large where the top projects are selected to be completed. With the support of the Covid-19 Response Support Catalyst funding, they have been able to select place-based projects to be implemented in their community.

We invite you to learn more about our Rural Teacher Corps initiative and our network partners. In addition, please take a few moments to read about our Driftless Region and Illinois Hubs. Our Regional Hub network is the essence of the Rural Schools Collaborative.

Finally, thanks again to Compeer Finance for the wonderful support.

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