Editor's Note: Over the next several days we are going to feature the good work of California State University, Chico and its RiSE Program. Chico State University and North State Together anchor our Northern California Hub, and the RiSE Program is an excellent example of the rural teacher corps concept.
Thank you to Ann Schulte, Ph,D. for her assistance with this series. Ann is Graduate Coordinator for the School of Education and she also serves as the Faculty Fellow for Rural Partnerships in the Office of Civic Engagement. In addition, we are honored that Ann is a Rural Schools Collaborative Advocate.
By Ann Schulte, Ph.D.
The Residency in Secondary Education (RiSE) program at California State University, Chico is in its fourth year of a five-year grant cycle. The program is funded by a US Department of Education Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grant. The purpose of the RiSE Partnership with local rural schools is to provide a new generation of math, science, English and special education teachers for middle and high schools in the region and state. The goals are to improve academic achievement, support effective instruction aligned to Common Core standards and Next Generation Science Standards, to recruit and retain teachers, and to develop and sustain partnerships with regional districts.
To date, three RiSE cohorts have produced 49 graduates. Of those 49, 22 (45%) came from rural communities. The 4th cohort has 23 residents, with 8 (35%) of whom come from rural communities. Because of reduced funding, a small final cohort for AY 2019-20 will have 10-12 residents. Of the 30 graduates from cohorts 1 & 2, 27 (90%) are now teaching in high-need schools, many of which are in rural communities.
What follows are the perspectives of three mentor teachers in this year’s program, Kile Taylor, Jan Mathews, and Lupe Funderbunk.
Kile Taylor, M.A. Education Specialist, Glenn County Office of Education, Hamilton Elementary
What do you think are the best parts of being a mentor teacher in the RiSE Program? The caliber of student and support from the university is of a high quality which impacts my program in a positive way. In my experience, students from RiSE come into my classroom prepared and expecting to be involved in planning, decision making, and other facets of teaching from the beginning. I've also appreciated the training that RiSE offers at the beginning of the year and throughout the school year. I am encouraged by and have enjoyed observing my past RiSE candidate grow during our time together.
What are some of your favorite things about teaching in a rural place? I appreciate the sense of community that extends into the classroom. This sense of community influences my daily interactions, approaches to problem solving, and conversations around how to best serve my students. The work is challenging but quite rewarding.
Teaching in a rural setting has unique challenges and opportunities. What are some of the challenges you've encountered as a rural teacher? Students and families struggle with things ranging from getting basic needs met to traumatic experiences. Ultimately, these manifest in some way in the classroom and frequently have adverse effects on the student. I try to meet the need using whatever resources I have around me.
What is your hope for your rural community? One of my goals for this year is to create quarterly opportunities for families, students, and the team of folks in the Learning Center to gather on an evening and explore the needs of these families, connect them with one another and resources that may be helpful for them.
What would you tell future educators who may be looking to teach in a rural setting? Accept and expect that you will wear many hats. Although part of my day revolves around supporting the academic needs of students and teachers, I spend time counseling students, consulting with general education teachers/administrators on the social and behavioral needs of students, and working with outside agencies in order to connect these resources with students and their families.
Jan Mathews, Seventh and Eighth grade integrated science, C.K. Price Middle School, Orland CA
Imagine a classroom where you have the privilege of collaborating with another educator every day—this is exactly what I have experienced as a mentor in the RiSE Program. Being matched with an enthusiastic educator-in-training makes the classroom a full-time learning experience for both participants. Add to that, having an additional set of hands for a small group to review foundational skills or practices so often lacking in our rural, migrant population, and you have a recipe for success. I have had the opportunity to mentor three residents and introduce them to my community. These are a special set of graduate students who, without exception, have found a second home in our small community.
Some of my seventh and eighth graders don’t have the basic supplies (or a backpack to carry them in), but I am inspired and amazed on a daily basis by the grit and perseverance my students DO bring with them to school. It means that I too have to bring my “A-game” every day. Knowing that I have a RiSE candidate to share this responsibility with is not only a comfort to me, but a gift for our students.
Teaching in a rural setting has unique challenges and opportunities—my hopes for the students we serve is that they immerse themselves in their education, allow it to shape and grow them into learners who will value the uniqueness of their community. I want them to know what a very special place they come from—and that their individuality is the main ingredient in this, their own success.
Lupe Funderburk, English, Hamilton High School, Hamilton City, CA
Teaching with a resident teacher is a unique and rewarding experience. Having a colleague to plan lessons with, co-teach and reflect with, makes a positive impact on our students. Students have two professionals to learn from, approach with questions, or to seek advice.
We provide as many opportunities for students as we can. For example, we attend a Broadway play or musical in San Francisco once a year, and we have international teachers from all over the world who visit our campus for two weeks and teach culturally diverse lessons. Fortunately, students also have access to technology and therefore access to current events, class assignments, and can check their progress by using our mobile or library labs.
Teaching in a small, rural town feels very familial and inclusive. The community is supportive of our athletic programs and school events. They trust school employees in leading their children. We have parent teacher conferences twice a year and host numerous events that include the entire community, not just current parents. Conversely, students in a rural community have limited options for employment, activities to participate in and access to culturally rich opportunities.
The advantage to teaching in a small, rural community is the personal experience that each student receives. As an educator, I feel like I have a strong impact on our students because they know that the way to be successful is to pursue their goals using the support we provide.
We invite you to see more rural teacher profiles (including Jan and Lupe) at our "I am a Rural teacher" web page. Also, you can share your rural voice through our "I am a Rural teacher" Facebook group, which can be accessed off of the same page.
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