Building on the excitement surrounding last year’s inaugural event, Rural Schools Collaborative (RSC) again convened the national learning network of rural teacher preparation partners for the 2nd Annual Rural Teacher Corps Forum. As before, the goal for this event was for peers in the field of teacher preparation to meet, hear from a panel of three distinct Rural Teacher Corps efforts, and to think together through questions and discussion to promote this innovative model of rural teacher instruction.
The recruitment, preparation, and retention of visionary teacher-leaders is central to RSC’s mission of building sustainable rural communities through revitalizing rural public schools. Since its founding in 2015, RSC has advocated for the creation of career pathways in higher education that intentionally train rural educators. Termed a “Rural Teacher Corps” (RTC), some of RSC’s earliest philanthropic and collaborative projects were to seed these new preparation efforts based on a working model developed in cooperation with a national network of thought partners.
Since those early roots, RSC has persisted in its programmatic mission of establishing new RTC efforts, spotlighting exemplary programs, and facilitating the RTC national learning network, which currently includes 22 programs from 15 different states representing 12 RSC Hub Partner regions. Hoping to provide more opportunities for these efforts to work and learn together, RSC launched the Rural Teacher Corps Forum in 2022 with the three-fold purpose of creating community, celebrating progress, and growing through interaction. In the time since this inaugural event, interest in the RTC model and awareness of other innovative rural teacher preparation programs has continued to grow, helped in part through the generous renewal of RSC’s Catalyst Initiative Grant program.
This year’s event reflected this growing interest in and strength of the RTC model by attracting over 50 attendees from across the country and across sectors. While higher education partners were a dominant force at this year’s forum, RSC was honored to also host a number of community foundation and national philanthropic groups as well as the new Rural Liaison at the US Department of Education. Cross-regional and cross-sector collaboration of this sort is essential for rural issues, especially when it comes to education and teacher preparation. The diffuse nature of rural areas and the work supporting them oftentimes makes it difficult for like-minded peers to synergistically connect around a common cause. Bringing together disparate groups, grounded in the specific mission of inspiring, training, and sustaining teacher-leaders, is a core programmatic function of RSC that allows peers to connect and the national work of reinvigorating rural schools and communities to continue.
After introductory remarks setting the atmosphere of the day, Attendees this year first heard presentations from three significantly different teacher corps programs: The Ozarks Teacher Corps at the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, the Computational Literacy Across Secondary Settings (CLASS) program from California State University-Chico, and the new Oregon Rural Teacher Corps at Eastern Oregon University. These three efforts offered the audience the chance to understand how the basic teacher corps concept manifests across different contexts. Additionally, the theme for this year’s Forum was program growth and sustainability, so panelists also spent time discussing how their program evolved and grew over time, focusing on the key resources and partnerships that enabled the work to continue. Afterwards, the panel engaged audience questions about program sustainability as well as general teacher corps and rural education interests.
To learn more about this year’s Forum, please watch the video below. Be sure to check out our Rural Teacher Corps page to read more about why these efforts are needed, recommendations for starting or developing your own corps, and a directory of the Rural Teacher Corps national learning network.
The 2023 Rural Teacher Corps Forum
Thank you to Beth Hersh and Julie Leeth from the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, Jamie Gunderson from California State University-Chico, and Dave Dallas from Eastern Oregon University for graciously providing your time and stories to make this forum possible! Thank you as well to the many partners and friends, old and new, that came together for this event. We hope to see you all next year!
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