We want to thank our 10 inaugural Young Educators' Advisory Council members for their incredible service and collaboration over the past two years. As early educators, their unique perspectives on the strengths, challenges, and opportunities in rural schools have provided valuable insights into the pivotal transitions between teacher recruitment, preparation, and retention. Collaboratively, the 2020 - 2022 Young Educators' Advisory Council contributed to a number of projects, including:
The Rural Teacher Resiliency Guide
Created by our 2022 - 2022 Young Educators' Advisory Council, the Rural Teacher Resiliency Guide features advice from early career rural teachers, teacher stories and interviews, a cheat sheet for the first three years, helpful links, and advice on how administrators and community members can best support and welcome new teachers.
The goal of the Young Educators' Advisory Council was for early-career teachers to meet twice a year for frank conversations with Rural Schools Collaborative and each other about rural education. Along with helping to shape RSC’s offerings to rural teachers, the Council also provided its participants an opportunity to connect with each other at a time when work in a rural setting seemed all the more isolating. These meetings among colleagues-turned-friends produced a bounty of invaluable insight about supporting new teachers, and presented the opportunity for in-depth storytelling about lives and careers in rural places. In return, RSC offered small honorariums to the Councilors out of deep gratitude for their valuable time and service.
With this simple but impactful framework in hand, Rural Schools Collaborative invited a small corps of 10 engaged educators to join the Council. This inaugural cohort not only carried the passion and tenacity so valued in school teachers, but also represented the plurality of people, places, and perspectives that defines rural America.
For two years during the peak of the COVID-19 Pandemic, this cohort built a much-needed community with each other and directly contributed to the rapid growth of Rural Schools Collaborative’s programs. The group came together again for a final official meeting in early April of 2022 to share closing thoughts on the organization’s work, and to reminisce about the contributions of the first Council. Paramount among this work was their collaboration within two separate phases of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded I Am A Rural Teacher Campaign.
Not only did many of the councilors share their own stories of coming to rural education, but they also convened with others in a national open forum at the National Rural Education Association’s annual conference to discuss the role of the rural educator as well as the issues and opportunities to rural life they wanted to share with policymakers. Council collaboration with the NREA continued for a second year with a dedicated panel at the National Forum to Advance Rural Education. Likewise, a number of the councilors were instrumental in the early teacher-to-teacher exchanges between the United States and Wales, which planted the seeds for Rural Educators Across Borders.
In addition to working in conversation with each other, the Councilors generated an impressive portfolio of individual contributions. The Early Career Teacher Resiliency Guide is the brainchild of this first cohort. From the very start of their term, the Councilors highlighted the need for some resources new teachers could use to assist their first three years, and help administrators and the whole community support these new local leaders. Their personal reflections and perspectives provided the foundational content for the tool. Similarly, the Councilors offered priceless insight into the teacher hiring process, which helped shape the Teach Rural Job Board. Embracing place-based education, some of the Councilors even launched innovative new projects in their schools and were awarded funding through the Celia B. Godsil Grants in Place Fellows Program.
Thank you to these 10 amazing teacher-leaders for their time and service in support of rural education nationally, and in their own places. Their hard work will continue on in the powerful new resources and stories generated from their collaboration, and in the future iterations of the Council they helped create.