Rural Teacher Corps Initiative

Making the Case

Why do we need a rural teacher corps movement?

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 are on the horizon, especially in the STEM and special needs areas;
  • School districts continue to adhere to structures and models that are inappropriate for the nature of small communities in the 21st Century;
  • Schools and their personnel often lack the nimbleness and adaptive abilities required to utilize new technologies in ways that make small schools more effective and viable.

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.

Making the Case: The Ozarks Teacher Corps

The Ozarks Teacher Corps: Placement, Retention, & Perception is a simple, understated, yet illuminating examination of the results and impact of the Ozarks Teacher Corps program. Prepared by the Rural Schools Collaborative, the report suggests that a cooperative approach to preparing rural teachers holds real promise.

The 10-year impact of this effort is noteworthy.

Read more from this report