The Ozarks Teacher Corps is being recognized by more and more people as a concept that is right for rural schools and regions. Established in 2010 by the Community Foundation of the Ozarks' Rural Schools Partnership initiative, the Ozarks Teacher Corps has helped place nearly 60 full-time and permanent teachers in small Ozarks communities.The Ozarks Teacher Corps awards scholarships to students entering their junior year in college if they agree to teach in their hometown or another rural south-Missouri district for at least three years after graduation. Students who qualify receive a $4,000 per-year scholarship for their junior and senior years of college. Applicants must be students at Missouri State University, Missouri State-West Plains, Ozark Technical College, Drury University or Evangel University. They also must have graduated high school in a small southern Missouri town. Outside of traditional class work, members meet for professional development opportunities where they learn about a wide range of rural issues. One of the highlights is the opportunity for a former Ozarks Teachers Corps member to talk to the teacher candidates about his or her experience in the classroom.
The program was recently featured by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) on its website. According to DESE, "Preparing, developing and supporting effective educators is one of the main goals of Missouri’s Top 10 by 20 initiative, which aims to make Missouri a top 10 state for education by 2020." Dr. Julie Leeth, Community Foundation of the Ozarks executive vice-president and program coordinator, commented, "We feel the schools are integral to the life and the sustainability of many rural communities." Read the entire story, here.
Over the weekend, the Ozarks Teacher Corps was the focus of a special report by CBS affilate KOLR of Springfield, Missouri. You can view the newscast at this link.
The Rural Schools Collaborative's focus on the rural teacher corps concept is based on the success and relevance of the Ozarks Teacher Corps. We believe a rural teacher corps directly strengthens rural communities by supporting the development of teacher-leaders who:
- Have a strong sense of place, mission, and rural identity (in other words—not just looking for a first job until going to 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.
We are also pleased to report that interest in the concept is spreading. The Rural Schools Collaborative recently made a partnership grant to support a rural teacher corps visioning project at Dakota Wesleyan University, and we are in planning discussions with several other institutions and rural advocacy organizations.
If you would like more information on the Ozarks Teacher Corps or the rural teacher corps initiative contact Julie Leeth at firstname.lastname@example.org or the Rural Schools Collaborative at email@example.com .
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