Our Appalachia Regional Hub is lead by Morehead State University and the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, in collaboration with the National Rural Education Association, and covers the Appalachian regions of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina.

Morehead State University - Volgenau College of Education - Kentucky Lead

April Miller, Dean for the College of Education at Morehead State University, serves as the primary contact for Kentucky in the Appalachia Regional Hub. Building on the school's history as a rural-serving normal school, MSU has grown it's programming recently to include the innovative Appalachian Future Educators rural teacher preparation effort.

Antony D. Norman, Provost for Morehead State University, views the University's teacher education program as an integral ally to the surrounding region.

Antony D. Norman, Morehead State University Provost

In fact, MSU’s work in preparing teachers to serve the region is historic. The University got its start as a normal school, or an institute began exclusively to train educators. For this reason, Norman sees education as the “heartbeat of Morehead.” And as he’s seen and heard from colleagues and community members, “our rural educators and rural schools continue to be a central mission of the university.”

One program that exemplifies the strong work of the MSU Ernst & Sara Volgenau College of Education is the MSUTeach program. This program offers the opportunity for STEM students to receive a teaching certification along with their Bachelor of Science degree. As Norman points out, the benefits of this program can have a large impact.

“Since most of our students are from Eastern Kentucky and the region, every math and science teacher we create is a real strong possibility that we’re impacting right back into those communities we want to serve.”

MSU was also the recipient of RSC 2021 Catalyst Initiative Grant funding to spur the development of their own rural teacher corps effort. The University used its planning grant to roll out the Appalachian Future Educator Scholarship Program.

Dr. Ralph W. Hamilton, superintendent of Morgan County Public Schools, visits with MSU’s Appalachian Future Educators

This program recruits students from MSU’s 22-county service region in eastern Kentucky, and provides them with a scholarship, mentoring opportunities, and other support as they progress toward becoming teacher educators in rural Kentucky. The program’s purpose is to enhance the pipeline of qualified educators and educational leaders.

Through this program the Volgenau College of Education is strengthening partnerships with school districts in identifying, recruiting, and mentoring students from the region so they can return and give back to their home communities as rural educational leaders.

University of Tennessee-Chattanooga School of Education - Tennessee Lead

Allen Pratt, Executive Director of the National Rural Education Association and the Interim Co-director for the UTC School of Education, serves as the primary contact for Tennessee in the Appalachia Regional Hub. Sitting at the crossroads of a number of states and ecosystems in the Southern Appalachians, The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga is well positioned to continue its legacy of impactful rural collaborations at the local, regional, and national levels.

As an anchor serving the rural communities of the southern Appalachian mountains’ crests and valleys, and as the host of the National Rural Education Association, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga School of Education (UTC) has a strong track record of supporting rural schools and education, and will now join hands with Rural Schools Collaborative to further that good work in Tennessee, throughout the Appalachian Region, and across the country.

A sunny day on UTC's campus. Photo courtesy of Angela Foster-UTC
A sunny day on UTC's campus. Photo courtesy of Angela Foster-UTC

Dr. Allen Pratt, Executive Director of the National Rural Education Association and the Interim Co-director for the School of Education, reflects on the possibilities garnered through this partnership: “This partnership will allow us to bring opportunities to rural districts in the area that they may not have seen from UTC in a while. That ability to meet their needs and what they’re looking for fits into how we’re sharing this work as a rural teacher hub.”

Tennessee has captured well-earned national spotlight in recent years for how colleges, universities, schools, and educators have embraced new approaches to education in the post-pandemic space. Some of these hallmarks include Tennessee’s first-in-the-nation Teacher Apprenticeship Occupation programs and effective support mechanisms assisting students’ academic recovery since 2020. One such program poised to significantly impact the vitality of southeastern Tennessee’s rural communities is the University of Tennessee System’s Tennessee Grow Your Own (GYO) Center, which establishes GYO Hubs at each of the four UT schools, including Chattanooga.

With 17 rural districts in UTC’s immediate neighborhood, Pratt is excited for how collaborating with RSC and other anchor institutions in the Appalachian Region, such at Morehead State University in Kentucky, will enhance this work: “Being a rural teacher hub makes sense with this new GYO teacher apprenticeship work in terms doing outreach and offering resources [to rural districts].”

Dr. Allen Pratt showcasing UTC's new education facilities to the RSC team.
Dr. Allen Pratt showcasing UTC's new education facilities to the RSC team.

Thrilled at the prospect of expanding RSC’s involvement in Appalachia while also supporting shared work in the teacher preparation space, RSC Executive Director, Taylor McCabe-Juhnke commented on the partnership: We're so excited to welcome UTC to the Regional Hub Network. They are leading the way on rural education innovation initiatives like the apprenticeship pathways and finding innovative ways to diversify the future teaching workforce.”

Chasity Douglas - Surry County NC

Chasity Douglas

Teaching with Empathy and Determination

Educators are frequently the front line of support, encouragement, and empowerment for students to rise above their circumstances. Eighth grade English teacher Chasity Douglas from Surry County, NC, finds strength and power in knowing where she came from and working to translate that lived experience into a wellspring of support and care for her students.

Chasity shares, "All kids have to face some type of adversity; it just looks different for everyone. I want kids to face challenges with resilience, and so we as teachers have to model that."

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