A letter from Rural Schools Collaborative chair, Jim Beddow†, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota
“The Rural Schools Collaborative strengthens the bonds between rural schools and communities through place-based engagement, rural philanthropy, and developing teacher-leaders.” - RSC Mission Statement
During the brief history of the Rural School Collaborative, we have continued to refine the organization’s mission statement, shared principles, and action plans. The fact that new individuals and organizations continue to join our journey validates the fact that we have birthed a vital initiative that is both compelling and understandable. As we continue to move forward, I am sharing some of my thoughts on the “teacher-leader” concept with the intent of engaging the ideas and thinking of others.
As you may know, the Rural Schools Collaborative has essentially constructed a three-legged programmatic stool involving a Rural Teacher Corps, rural philanthropy, and placed-based engagement. Obviously, there can and should be significant synergy between and among these three elements. I suggest that we utilize a teacher-leader construct as a vehicle for advancing these three initiatives in a more integrated manner at the local and regional level. Partners in our regional hubs and beyond could collaborate to identify, recruit, prepare, and support these teacher-leaders as they design and implement an integrated program in a manner appropriate for their setting. The RSC could work together with the hubs to develop resources for these kinds of efforts. What follows is a “sketch” of how this might look like. My hope is that RSC constituents, hub partners, and others will add additional and constructive ideas.
Rural Teacher Corps (RTC)
Our early conceptualization of the RTC has been focused on higher education and the development of intentional teacher preparation programs. A more expansive approach to teacher-leader development could expand the scope and reach of the RTC by engaging in several supportive RTC activities at the local and regional level. These activities could include engaging high school students and current teacher prep students regarding the possibilities and rewards of being a rural teacher. Also, the teacher-leaders would be well positioned to be helpful mentors for new teachers in rural settings. In sum, our teacher-leaders would become key players in the continuum of recruiting, preparing, placing, and supporting RTC members.
Involving teacher-leaders in the practice and processes of philanthropy could be a very exciting new role and provide a much-needed resource to our rural communities. This role would move our teacher-leaders into significant and meaningful community-based activities. Equally important, the teacher-leader could engage students in philanthropic activities for both school and community projects. Philanthropic initiatives could be an excellent vehicle for developing school-community collaboration.
Place-Based Engagement (PBE)
Obviously, PBE permeates the entirety of the Rural Schools Collaborative’s work and mission. Teacher-leaders could become the embodiment of school and community collaboration. School-centric place-based learning has been practiced in numerous places for some time. Our RSC initiatives seek to foster more vital community involvement in school-based place-based learning. Additionally, our teacher-leaders could be an important resource for community-centric PBE.
The above thoughts reflect very early thinking regarding a teacher-leader construct that could lend itself to inclusion, collaboration, and social entrepreneurship. I sincerely invite you to participate in this ongoing dialogue. Please contact us via email at email@example.com, and we will get you engaged in this important conversation.
I wish you a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year!
Rural Schools Collaborative Board Chair
†Dr. Jim Beddow, longtime RSC advocate, board member and chair emeritus, and passed away on June 25, 2023. Read more about his legacy.