Driftless Region

Our Driftless Region Hub is anchored by the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s School of Education.

Dr. Jen Collins at The School of Education at UWP heads up the Driftless Region Hub. She and her team are sharing the stories of local schools and training the next generation of rural teacher-leaders in place-based education, sustainability, community engagement, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.


The successful preparation of future educators has been a longstanding strength of our Driftless Hub partners at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville School of Education. This fall, the tight-knit faculty decided to take it to the next level with the launch of their new rural-focused K-through-9 licensure program.

Dr. Jennifer Collins

“We like to say that teaching started here, and now it feels like we’re going back to our roots. We started as this small normal school training rural teachers because that’s all there really were, one-room schoolhouses…There’s a lot of pride for us in that; that teaching started here and now we’re coming back to serve those same communities,” Dr. Collins says.

UW-Platteville School of Education Team with RSC

Dr. Collins and her team's passion for their work is evident from the moment you step foot on campus. The UWP educators spoke about their new efforts to overhaul the education curriculum in order to reflect an integrated, place-based, and rural-centric approach. Rural Schools Collaborative was pleased to support a portion of this work through the 2021 Catalyst Initiative, which awarded a $25,000 planning grant to support UWP’s rural teacher preparation efforts. The UWP team aspires to create excellent, rural-ready leaders who go out into the field of education and, as Dr. Collins put it, are easy to pick out and say, “That’s a Platteville grad.”

With a particular emphasis on place-based practices, professional flexibility, equity and inclusivity, and social justice, Dr. Collins sees great opportunities for this program to critically engage students on the realities of living and teaching in a rural area:

“The predominant message we hear is that to be rural is to be at a deficit. Not to say that rural doesn’t have its problems, we most certainly do, but what are our strengths and assets, too? We’re equipping students with the ability to see these issues and the tools to address them. We’re also getting them to look at their place with a critical eye and to see not only whose voices are being shared, but whose are being left out. So, from your first introduction to education class you’ll begin to talk about and think about rural areas.”

Learning Through Place

A Democracy of Education: Offering Students a New Path through School in Cambridge, Wisconsin

For this month’s Cultivating Community feature, Laura Emrick, founding teacher for the Koshkonong Trails School in Cambridge, Wisconsin, shares this brief glimpse of how policy change and community action has impacted students at this project-based and place-based school:

“There was a parent that said this school was life-changing for their child. I was like, ‘wow, it changed their life?’ Then the very next parent said that this school was life-saving for their child.”

In telling about their school, Emrick and her colleague Adam Gould, director of the Severson Learning Center which hosts KT, talk through not just how the Cambridge community came together to support students, but why they chose to undertake such a venture.

Policy change is no easy feat, even at the local level, and maintaining a diverse group of interests long enough to bring a program to fruition requires a good deal of effort. Misunderstandings, limited resources, and the loss of energy to continue are among the many barriers that cut grassroots action short before it has the chance to grow and flourish.

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