Rural educators and leaders from across the nation, including Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach, John White, recently gathered in Thomasville, Missouri, to discuss rural education issues and share best practices.
The May 6th event, sponsored by the Community Foundation of the Ozarks (CFO), took place in a school-turned-community center in the isolated town with an estimated population of 50. Attendees enjoyed a range of events, including speeches, break-out sessions, and recognition of student accomplishments and innovative new programs, such as the Ozark Teachers Corps.
The Ozarks Teacher Corps is a cadre of talented teaching candidates who will explore rural education issues, serve as teacher interns in small schools, and commit to teaching in their respective home communities for at least three years. Awardees receive an annual scholarship of $4,000, must maintain excellent academic credentials, and will be members of the national Rural School and Community Trust’s Rural Schools Innovation Network. The program is made possible by the Chesley and Flora Lea Wallis Scholarship Fund, a $1.7 million CFO charitable fund.
White said he came to the Ozarks to see this new program as a model to help fill critical teacher shortages in rural communities across the country. “One of the things we want to do from Washington is figure out what will be most applicable and will work at a local level,” White said, citing innovations such as using Internet video conferencing technology for distance learning and technology on school buses for learning during long daily commutes. “We want to provide support in different ways instead of a one-size-fits-all approach.”
At the end of the day, remaining participants gathered around a bonfire for one last brainstorming session. Some of the attendees opted to sleep outside in a tent under the star filled sky rather than at the nearest hotel, which was 20 miles away.
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