Rural communities are often filled with people impassioned to make a difference in their towns. We had the chance to meet one such person, Jennifer Shealy, a second-career educator in Greenville, Alabama. After living in Greenville for over 20 years, she knew that the school was the heart of the community, and relationships between teachers, parents, and students were key to making sure that everyone can succeed.
Hoping to make a difference in the lives of her students and their families, Jennifer went back to school to launch into her new life as a rural teacher. She was inspired by the teachers in her community before she ever considered becoming a teacher herself.
“I worked with a television station for 21 years and I loved it, but as I started to get connected with more families in my rural area, I just realized how important school is in a small community. It really is the center of the community and what really connects people. When my children got into school, I really could see the work that the teachers were doing, not just as teachers, but as community members who are bringing people together.”
Reflecting on her journey to teaching and how it led her making so many new connections, Jennifer encouraged people who are interested in bettering their rural community to give education a try:
“The program I'm in at the University of West Alabama takes someone with a bachelor's degree in anything, and after the program you have your Masters. I know there are programs like that all over the country. For that non-traditional person who doesn't necessarily feel fulfilled, and they want to make an impact in their community, I believe, truly, that public school in rural areas is the heart of the community, and that teachers are at that heart.”
Read the full interview, and other great rural teacher stories, on the I Am A Rural Teacher page!
Special thanks to our Alabama Black Belt hub partners, The University of West Alabama. The I Am A Rural Teacher campaign is a collaborative effort with the National Rural Education Association and made possible through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
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