Rural Teacher Corps Take Flight: Catalyst Initiative Update

December 7, 2021 |
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Rural Schools Collaborative would like to thank our four 2021 Catalyst Initiative participants, Morehead State University, University of North Dakota, The University of Wisconsin-Platteville, and The University of Wyoming, for their efforts to address America’s rural teacher shortage. RSC's Catalyst Grants Initiative, totaling $100,000 through an anonymous donor, helped these four new rural teacher corps interventions take flight and enhanced our network of partnerships in these regional hubs.

Addressing the rural teacher shortage is of the utmost importance to underserved rural regions. While each institution charted its own unique course, they have all expanded regional rural teacher corps-like programs, celebrated below:

Morehead State University (MSU):

Morehead State University alumnus Dr. Ralph W. Hamilton, superintendent of Morgan County Public Schools, visits with MSU’s Appalachian Future Educators (AFE)

MSU used its planning grant to support the development and launch of the new Appalachian Future Educator Scholarship Program. This new program recruits students from MSU’s 22 county service region in eastern Kentucky and provides them with a scholarship, mentoring opportunities, and other supports as they progress toward becoming teacher educators in rural Kentucky.

Activities included:

  • Outreach to area school superintendents on the development and promotion of the program.
  • Marketing materials to promote the program both to potential students and to area schools.
  • A professional development “Speaker Series” has been initiated for program participants. The focus of these presentations is on the “joys, rewards, and challenges of being a rural educator.”
  • In addition, workshops will be provided this spring on implementing place-based teaching strategies in rural school communities.

University of North Dakota (UND)

UND teacher practicum visit

UND used its planning grant to support the development of a rural teacher recruitment and preparation effort as part of its new Rural Education, Equity, and Economic Development (I-REED) initiative. This thoughtful and structured effort is being built out in phases, and this fall a pilot cohort of five preservice rural teachers participated in an immersive program to thoughtfully prepare rural teachers. Although North Dakota is largely a rural state, teacher preparation efforts have historically been grounded in the state’s urban areas.

Activities included:

  • A Phase One needs assessment and evaluation measures.
  • The experiential “rural teaching practicum” in collaboration with a pilot rural school district.
  • Development of a mentoring/consultation model for new and early career rural teachers. This effort utilizes digital technology to facilitate rural outreach.
  • Launching a professional development model for rural school communities that reflects the unique needs of rural school districts.
UWP Proud Rural Teacher group

UWP used its planning grant to help develop and launch a new Proud Rural Teacher Initiative. This initiative honors the institution's 150-year history of preparing teachers, and it creates a “rurally-responsive elementary-middle level teacher preparation program” that was rolled out this fall.

This initiative included:

  • Marketing and promotional materials and efforts, including an ongoing podcast series that focuses on rural teachers.
  • Seed money for a new institutional student Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) for rural elementary-middle level education majors, which was instituted fall of 2021.
  • Travel expenses to support student practicum placements in rural school settings.
  • The development of a longitudinal research project to measure the ongoing impact of the Proud Rural Teacher effort.

The University of Wyoming (UW)

Onsite at a UW partner school

UW, in partnership with Teton Science Schools, were able to launch a research initiative on best practices for recruiting, preparing, and retaining teachers in rural settings, as well as establish and expand school and university partnerships.

Activities included:

  • Establishing a partnership with two rural remote schools, which will provide visitation/experiential sites for preservice teachers, future practicum placements, and a place-based education laboratory.
  • Coordinate promotional materials to support fundraising for the new “rural teacher corps,” develop a research-based resource on best practices for the rural teachers in Wyoming, and bolstering a “Wyoming School-University Partnership.”
  • Launched a research initiative to find the best strategies for preparing, recruiting, and retaining teachers in rural settings. So far, this research has determined strategies for addressing recruitment, attrition, mental health and well-being, quality of student education and support networks for in-service rural teachers.
  • Supported a student “rural education” ambassador to share the personal narratives on becoming a rural teacher.

The past year and a half has been nothing less than extraordinary. Public schools and higher education institutions have been challenged in ways heretofore unimaginable. But we hope that this Catalyst Initiative support provided hope and tangible assistance at time when many folks found it hard to move forward.

Our four partner institutions have made real strides in developing efforts that will encourage young people to share, give back, and lead in rural school communities. We truly appreciate their work!

Additional reading:

Morehead State University

University of North Dakota

University of Wyoming:

University of Wisconsin-Platteville:

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