ST. PARIS – A recent US News Education Headline claims there is a national crisis in rural teacher recruitment, development, and retention that needs to be addressed. Graham Superintendent Kirk Koennecke agrees and recently convened more than 20 district leaders and several state and national representatives to discuss the issues. Leaders from Texas, Missouri, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Ohio joined with staff from Graham and 19 other districts to discuss professional development needs for rural educators, funding issues, and sustainability for America’s small communities.
“This day brought a focus for us on how to build community through people and reclaim the foundations of strong school communities through active school partnerships,” said Koennecke. Leaders from the Ohio School Boards Association, Ohio Department of Education, and Ohio State also joined the group and made the case for more education career programs, STEM-related professional development, partner networks, and blended learning opportunities for adults in remote locations. “We are trying to raise the dialogue of equity and access for small and rural educators across Ohio, but as we have seen and heard today, this is truly a national issue, and our schools suffer from lack of resources and access to the same learning opportunities others have.” Koennecke made a case for the need for more partner networks to change this trend.
“Urbana University, Hi-Point and Graham have developed an Education Pathway program specifically to address the rural teacher shortage in our area. We need to grow our own, incentivize the path, and celebrate why students should look at this wonderful career choice while they are in high school. For the last two decades, students have been negatively impacted by the perceptions of our careers created by the media and government around schools. We do not share those negative views. We need to share how uplifting and satisfying this career choice can be, and how important for the future of small communities.”
Ryan Rismiller, principal of GHS, said, “Our community partners recognize that this is crucial to the long-term health of our schools and our communities. When we take time to model teaching professions locally and support future teachers, there is no greater transfer of learning. We can ensure their readiness for work in our schools with local influence and guidance. We want to see lots of our students consider education as a profession in the coming years.”
Urbana University has stepped up incentives for Education pathway participants as well, offering free $1000 scholarships annually, and free books to those students in the Education Pathway program. “We are grateful and excited for the opportunity to work with these partners to bring these resources to future teachers. Ultimately we need to spread the word about education as a career choice, and its positive impact on rural school communities. ”
Allen Pratt, Executive Director of the National Rural Education Association, stated it best during his keynote address. “We are all here together because we are dreamers. That’s why we got into this business. Those with dreams can accomplish anything together.”
The participants committed to active partner networks on several fronts during the meetings, including STEM related curriculum ideas for schools, and blended learning projects for staff.
Submitted by the Graham school district.