By Aleeka Gentzler
I was raised in Paxton, Illinois, a small rural town in central Illinois. Paxton has a population of approximately 4,500 people, where you know almost everyone. I have always enjoyed being a part of a small town because there is a level of support that you cannot get anywhere else. In my town, everyone looks out for each other, there is a sense of a community, and a type of kindness I haven’t found anywhere else. Ever since I was little I have wanted to be a teacher. My love of education has blossomed from the teachers that I encountered through my education. My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Peden, is always someone that sticks out in my mind when I am asked what inspired me to become a teacher. She was always eager to teach, and still is today. Mrs. Peden has always encouraged me when talking about pursuing a career in teaching. Along with this, I do not think that there is a greater feeling than helping a student learn. It could be as simple as moving up in a reading level, but it is a source of happiness for both the teacher and the student.
I am often asked “Why Rural?” When most people think of rural districts, they think that these districts are disadvantaged. However, I think that rural districts are differently advantaged. This is because of the resources that may be available in rural schools are usually not the same as those available in an urban school. Rural school students have more of an opportunity to get hands on experience with certain topics in comparison to an urban school student. I also believe that place-based education can be revolutionary for this same reason. This is using the students' “place” to help them better understand an idea or concept.
To me being a rural teacher means that you can incorporate place-based education successfully and can cater to your students’ various needs. I also believe it is important not to dwell on the resources that are unavailable, but rather make the most of the resources that are available. Being a rural teacher is more than a just job; it is being a part of a tight-knit community that supports each other.
I feel blessed to be a part of the TARTANS program at Monmouth College. To me, being a Tartan means that I will have more opportunities to positively impact my students’ lives. It will also help me develop a better knowledge of how my environment can be a positive factor in my teaching career. I am excited to be a part of this initiative and cannot wait to implement what I am learning through this program. I Am A Rural Teacher!