On the morning of July 17, Rural Schools Collaborative president Jim Beddow welcomed 30 attendees from across the country to RSC’s annual planning meeting in Kansas City, Missouri. “When we share stories about our rural schools and places,” Beddow stated, “caring and like-minded people emerge.”
The planning meeting brought together members of RSC’s board of directors, staff, and key influencers within RSC’s new regional Hub system to discuss the organization’s mission-centered goals and trajectories entering the 2017-18 fiscal year.
Beddow’s welcome message emphasizing the importance of shared rural stories wove through the entire day, beginning with members of the Ozarks Teacher Corps and University of West Alabama’s Black Belt Teacher Corps, who described their own journeys in rural education for the rest of the group. Many of these bright young educators highlighted their faith in the rural places they call home, defying the dominant narrative that rural communities across America are no longer viable places to make a home and grow a career.
At right: Members of the University of West Alabama Black Belt Teacher Corps (top): Austin Bishop, Allie Marques, Elizabeth Waddell, Kristin Phillips and Ebonee Spinks. Members of the Ozarks Teacher Corps (bottom): Ashley Howell, Amy Ginnings, Lara Strong and Mariah Viles.
In addition to providing narrative, Austin Bishop, Elizabeth Waddell and Allie Marques, members of the Black Belt Teacher Corps, shared stories of service projects they are implementing in the rural communities where they teach. Bishop and Waddell are creating a Maker Space for students to explore, imagine, and create beyond the walls of their traditional classrooms. Marques has started an ambitious multi-school garden project, building handicap-accessible garden beds and accompanying curriculum for teachers in four different schools.
Building on the energy of the inspiring work of the Teacher Corps members, all attendees spent the afternoon discussing and brainstorming action steps surrounding key themes of the RSC mission: rural resource development, the rural teacher corps intiative, and rural teacher corps networking and collaboration strategies. These thoughtful discussions and the resulting action points (below) will be used to guide the next year of RSC’s work.
The RSC board of directors also held their annual meeting while in Kansas City, where they recognized a change of board leadership and thanked two outgoing board members, Andrea Evans and Lavina Grandon, with a board resolution honoring their tenures and commitments. Both Evans and Grandon served as founding members of the RSC board of directors.
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