An International Dialogue: Early Career Welsh & American Rural Teachers

Common challenges. Shared vision.

March 18, 2021 |
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The Aberaeron Primary School, near the Cardigan Bay coast, celebrates Wales' place in the world. Cymru Lle yn y Byd.

A Global Imperative

The development of rural teacher-leaders is a global imperative, and to that end several organizations are collaborating on a new Rural Educators Across Borders initiative. The impetus for this formal effort began in 2019 with an information exchange between America’s Rural Schools Collaborative and the Welsh ERW (Education through Regional Working), a working alliance of six local Welsh authorities that was "challenging thinking around the concept of rural deprivation.” The dialogue between ERW and RSC explored the importance of place-based approaches to schooling and the concept of a “rural advantage.” Subsequently, ERW, with support from the Education Development Trust, published the Rural Research Report, which identified opportunities and perceived “advantages” for rural school communities.

The second phase of this cooperative venture has been a guided conversation between early career educators in the United States and Wales. Supported by the Welsh Government and the Rural Schools Collaborative, this dialogue focuses on the challenges, opportunities, and shared visions of early career rural teachers from the two nations. More specifically, the participants are examining issues such as isolation, resiliency, place-based curriculum, and global cooperation.

Early career teachers from Wales and America came together to share challenges, experiences, and hopes.

The dialogue began on February 25, 2021 with an introductory meeting of 16 Welsh and American early career teachers. This session also included several representatives from the Welsh Government and RSC. During the meeting participants introduced themselves and shared perspectives and anecdotes on their respective places and experiences. While Covid-19 has been stressful for all of humanity, it has also been a shared experience that has the potential to bring people together. This is particularly true for teachers, who have persevered through a wide variety of unusual and difficult circumstances.

A second planning dialogue for the early career teachers is slated for April 15, 2021. This session will ask participants to establish a mission statement for the work and to establish some intermediate goals. The conversation will be facilitated by Mark Ford, the Welsh Government's Professional Adviser for Pedagogy, Leadership and Professional Learning.

In bringing together rural teachers from both Wales and the United States, RSC, the Welsh Government, and their working partners hope to provide a platform for mutual engagement and understanding. The future of rural schools and their respective regions, regardless of geography, will depend largely on thriving and relevant school communities, which must include informed and passionate teacher-leaders. Many rural school communities are often isolated, even within their own national setting. Developing an international working group of rural teacher-leaders creates opportunities that are both practical and aspirational.

The following early career teachers are participating in this international exchange effort. Please use the imbedded links to learn a little bit about each teacher and their "place" on the map:

Teachers from Wales (NQT stands for "Newly Qualified Teacher")

Eve Davies, 3rd and 4th Grade Teacher, Edwardsville Primary in South Wales

Lee Evans, 2nd Year Teacher, Glais Primary School in South Wales

Kane Thomas, Foundations Phase Lead, Glais Primary School in South Wales

Alan Williams, Secondary Physics Teacher, Dyffryn Taf in South West Wales

Katie Evans, Teaches 4-5 year olds, Llangunnor Primary School in Carmarthen South Wales

Catrin Morris, Teacher at Ysgol y Frenni, Crymych in South West Wales

Steven Edmunds, Secondary Mathematics Teacher, Cowbridge Comprehensive School

Alaw Jones, NQT Secondary Science Teacher, Ysgol Brynrefail in North Wales

Cadi Lake, NQT Bilingual Teacher, Ysgol Brynrefail in North Wales

Gwenlli Haf, Teaches year 5, Ysgol Brynrefail in North Wales

Teachers from the United States

Krista Pilarski, 7th Grade English teacher, Milford, VA

Randi Elizabeth Rovetto, 8th Grade Teacher, Plumas Lake, CA

Nancy Diaz, 10th Grade Teacher, Oroville, CA

Laura Kincer, 11th Grade Teacher, Tazewell, VA

Theressa Smith, Middle School Science Teacher, Poison Spider School in Casper, WY

Brittany Williams, Kindergarten Teacher, University Charter School in Livingston, Alabama

Matthew McCombs, High School Science Teacher, Yuba City, CA

Holly Pitts, 4th Grade Teacher, Lovington, IL

Celeste Haverkamp, Language Arts Teacher, Ignacio Middle School in Ignacio, CO

Nick Foertsch, Social Studies Teacher, Milnor Public School in Milnor, ND

We want to thank Mark Ford, Sarah Perdue, Ieuan Jones and Giulia Vidal for their dedication, enthusiasm, and work in making this partnership possible. The initiation for this conversation wouldn't have been possible without the work from the I Am a Rural Teacher Campaign, funded by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Would you like to participate in rural teacher-led conversations? Get in touch with liliana@ruralschoolscollaborative.org to learn more about future opportunities for engagement with the Rural Schools Collaborative and our partners. Rural teachers from any nation are invited to engage in the I Am a Rural Teacher advocacy campaign!

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