Rural Teacher Corps

The intentional development of rural teacher-leaders is a national imperative.

Since inception, RSC has directed more than $430,000 to launch Rural Teacher Corps initiatives. These investments have since been more than quadrupled the impact through local matching dollars, state and federal grants, and caring individuals. Now with our 25+ Rural Teacher Corps partners, our network collectively trains more than 250 rural teachers a year.

The recruitment, preparation, and retention of visionary teacher-leaders is central to Rural Schools Collaborative’s mission of building sustainable rural communities through a keen focus on place, teachers, and community. Since its founding in 2015, RSC has advocated for the creation of career pathways in higher education that intentionally train future rural educators. Termed a “Rural Teacher Corps” (RTC), some of RSC’s earliest philanthropic and collaborative projects were to seed these new preparation efforts based on a working model developed in cooperation with a national network of thought partners.

Making the Case

Rural Teacher Corps are intentional efforts to recruit, prepare, and retain rural teacher-leaders.

The case for rural teacher corps-like programs and initiatives is rather straightforward:

Education is a linchpin issue in rural economic development:

  • Public school systems are why many small towns still exist;
  • Families will not relocate to small communities unless they believe public school systems are strong;
  • School systems are often among the largest, if not the largest, employer in a rural community;
  • Education has always been a starting point for meaningful change.

However, sustaining and strengthening rural schools has many challenges:

  • Unprecedented teacher shortages continue, particularly in high-need rural districts, and in specialty areas (like special education, multi-lingual learners, and STEAM);
  • Rural school districts continue to struggle with sufficient funding and face threats of consolidation or closures, even while educators are asked to take on more and more roles in their day-to-day work;
  • The national narrative and support for education as a career field, and rural places as innovative, asset-based communities continues to contribute to brain drain and retention challenges.

The answer to these challenges is, in part, to begin recruiting and preparing rural teachers who:

  • Have a strong sense of place, mission, and rural identity (in other words—not just looking for a first job before leaving for a larger district);
  • Have a more comprehensive understanding of rural “issues,” including economic-, environmental-, and justice-related;
  • Are savvy communicators, networkers, and users of new media;
  • Recognize the imperative to and value of collaboration—within a school, across the community, and between diverse rural regions;
  • Are perceived as community leaders and catalysts for change.

Change rarely comes from the middle, and it is unlikely that traditional teacher education programs will serve as early catalysts in developing the type of teacher-leaders desperately needed by rural schools and their communities. It is also unlikely that a prescriptive model, one developed from the top down, will lead to meaningful change.

Our Recommendations

A Summary of and Recommendations from the Rural Teacher Corps Project: Stakeholder Dialogue

View the full PDF here.

On June 13-14, a group of rural school and community activists gathered on the campus of Dakota Wesleyan University to discuss how they might create a better future for their rural schools and communities. At the center of their discussions was the essential question: How do we work together to strengthen the recruitment, preparation, and placement/retention of future rural teacher-leaders?

People showed up, not because Mitchell, SD was an exotic location or because attending was a path to career advancement. They showed up because they wanted to figure out how they might be part of an effort to develop rural teacher corps that focus on filling rural schools with talented teacher-leaders. They showed up because they care about rural schools and communities.

Participants left with project ideas, which they intend to work on in their own individual schools, communities, and colleges. They formed a network dedicated to cause, and provided valuable insights to the Rural Schools Collaborative on how they can help inspire the development and success of more rural teacher corps projects.

The basic recommendations were as follows (again, you can view the report in its entirety here)

1. How we work together to bolster the recruitment of future teacher-leaders:

  • develop a network of positive role models to encourage people to become rural teachers
  • reframe the rural narrative; emphasize the positive aspect of the rural experience
  • focus on efforts that recruit students during their actual K-12 years
  • develop efforts to recruit mid-career professionals who may be tied to a given community
  • seek opportunities to formulate programs that include scholarship incentives for future teachers to commit to rural teaching placements
  • speak to the community and public roles of educators--create a more mission-driven dialogue

2. How we work together to enhance the preparation of future rural teacher-leaders.

  • offer more real life and intensive experiences in rural schools
  • rural teacher education programs need to be more "futuristic"
  • build a stronger focus on the teacher as a respected professional
  • preparation should include being a community member

3. How we work together on placement and retention issues.

  • communities must convey to new or potential teachers that they are or will be a valued part of the overall community
  • there must be intentional efforts to connect new teachers to the social fabric of a given community
  • mentorship programs that pair new teachers with "true" teacher-leaders should be implemented
  • explore collaborating with community foundations and private foundations to provide incentives for new rural teacher to into graduate education
  • conduct external evaluations on why teachers leave rural settings
I Am a Rural Teacher
Logo for I Am a Rural Teacher program, a project of Rural Schools Collaborative and National Rural Education Association.

Celebrating the role rural teachers play in their communities is critical to supporting a positive narrative around rural places and teachers. Sharing asset-based stories from rural teachers across the country, the I Am A Rural Teacher project serves as not only a platform for rural teacher advocacy, but also as a space for inspiration for our future teachers. RSC is committed to uplifting a hopeful and innovative perspective about the rural teacher-leaders that make our communities great.

The program is a collaboration between the Rural Schools Collaborative and Regional Hub Partners, and the National Rural Education Association. The I Am a Rural Teacher project was launched with support from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Catalyst Grant Initiative

RSC's Catalyst Fund is our organization's philanthropic commitment to practice what we preach. Since 2015 the Catalyst Fund effort has resulted in more than $430,000 for planning grants and challenge grants to support Rural Teacher Corps development.

Learn more about this philanthropic effort and the programs it serves!

RSC's Rural Teacher Corps Network


Educating the Future of Appalachia, Appalachian Future Educator logo.

Appalachian Future Educators

Est. 2021

Morehead State University - Morehead, KY


Arkansas Teacher Corps logo.

Arkansas Teacher Corps

Est. 2014

University of Arkansas - Fayetteville, AR


Bemidji State University's Professional Education logo.

BSU Rural Teacher Corps

Est. 2023

Bemidji State University - Bemidji, MN


The University of West Alabama's Black Belt Teacher Corps Teach for Alabama logo.

Black Belt Teacher Corps

Est. 2016

The University of West Alabama - Livingston, AL


California State University-Chico's Computational Literacy Across Secondary Settings logo.


Est. 2014

California State University-Chico - Chico, CA


University of Indianapolis's Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning logo.

Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning (CELL)

Est. 2022

University of Indianapolis - Indianapolis, IN


Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque logo.

Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque Rural Teacher Corps

Est. 2022

Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque - Dubuque, IA


Eastern Illinois University logo.

EIU Rural Teacher Corps

Est. 2019

Eastern Illinois University - Charleston, IL


Kansas State University ED ASTRA Rural Teacher Corps logo.


Est. 2021

The Rural Education Center of Kansas State University - Manhattan, KS


Western Illinois University Great River Teacher Corps logo.

Great River Teacher Corps

Est. 2019

Western Illinois University - Macomb, IL


Knox College logo.

Knox Rural Teacher Corps

Est. 2023

Knox College - Galesburg, IL


Frostburg State University's Maryland Accelerates Program logo.

Maryland Accelerates Program

Est. 2020

Frostburg State University - Frostburg, MD


Montana Rural Teacher Project

Est. 2019

Montana State University - Bozeman, MT


Eastern Oregon University's Oregon Rural Teacher Corps logo.

Oregon Rural Teacher Corps

Est. 2022

Eastern Oregon University - La Grande, OR


Ozarks Teacher Corps logo.

Ozarks Teacher Corps

Est. 2010

Community Foundation of The Ozarks - Springfield, MO


University of Wisconsin-Platteville School of Education's Proud Rural Teacher logo.

The Proud Rural Teacher Initiative

Est. 2021

University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Platteville, WI


Eastern Carolina University Rural Education Institute logo.

Rural Education Institute

Est. 2023

East Carolina University - Greenville, NC


Valley City State University logo.

Rural Schools Partner Benefit Program

Est. 2019

Valley City State University - Valley City, ND


Ohio University logo.

Rural Teacher Fellowship Program

Est. 2023

Ohio University - Athens, OH


Southern Illinois University Carbondale logo.

Southern Illinois University Grow Your Own

Est. 2019

Southern Illinois University - Carbondale, IL


Missouri University of Science and Technology's Teacher Education and Certification logo.

STEM-Focused Teacher Education

Est. 2014

Missouri S&T - Rolla, MO


Monmouth College Rural Teacher Corps: Teachers Allied with Rural Towns and Neighborhood Schools logo.

TARTANS Rural Teacher Corps

Est. 2019

Monmouth College - Monmouth, IL


The University of Maine logo.

U-Maine Rural Teacher Corps

Est. 2023

University of Maine - Orono, ME


University of Mary logo.

U-Mary Rural Teacher Corps

Est. 2022

University of Mary - Bismarck, ND


University of North Dakota Initiative for Rural Education, Equity, & Economic Development logo.

University of North Dakota’s I-REEED Project & Rural Partnership

Est. 2021

University of North Dakota - Grand Forks, ND


University of Wyoming logo.

University of Wyoming Rural Teacher Corps

Est. 2021

University of Wyoming - Laramie, WY

Reach out to learn more!

Our team is honored to field countless calls and webinars to provide information to partners interested in addressing the rural teacher shortage on how to get started. Rural Teacher Corps models are a national imperative for the future of thriving rural communities.

Contact us