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UW Associate Professor Explores Rural Teacher Corps to Offset Teacher Shortage

March 8, 2022

Kate Welsh, an associate professor in the University of Wyoming’s School of Teacher Education, was awarded a grant from the Rural Schools Collaborative (RSC) to explore the establishment of a rural teacher corps in Wyoming.

The goal is to help keep Wyoming’s brightest minds in the state while combating a teacher shortage that is being felt nationwide.

Rural areas have suffered as budgets dwindle, industries evolve and people migrate out for new opportunities. Local schools have become the last bastion of institutional infrastructure in many small towns, yet they struggle to attract highly qualified and motivated teachers to lead their classrooms. A rural teacher corps not only has the potential to strengthen schools and improve instruction, but also help attract young professionals and new ideas to remote places.

“A rural teaching corps is a support and scholarship program for pre-service teachers. Its goal will be to prepare teachers for rural settings and have them commit to rural teaching positions,” Welsh says. “A rural teaching corps will ensure that pre-service teachers know UW’s programs will provide them with excellent opportunities to become rural educators. These programs have proven effective around the country in recruiting and placing teachers in rural contexts.”

UW received a $25,000 planning grant from RSC’s Catalyst Grants Initiative to support the development of a program as part of the RSC Northern Rockies Regional Hub. Planning grants are essential to capacity building. The funds provide external support, early flexible dollars and opportunities to leverage the experiences of a network of peer programs that have successfully moved from idea to practice.

“The grant funding has supported collaborative work between the UW College of Education and Teton Science Schools to investigate the possibility of establishing a rural teacher corps in Wyoming,” Welsh says. “Future funding also may be used to grant pre-service teachers in the corps with a scholarship that would allow them to complete their education.”

Welsh serves as co-director of the project with Leslie Cook, senior director of educator development at Teton Science Schools in Jackson. They are supported by UW graduate student Alex Martin, of Richland, Wash., who serves as a graduate assistant on the project.

Martin, a master’s student in the Science and Mathematics Teaching Center’s natural science education program, has been researching the feasibility of establishing a rural teacher corps at UW. Additionally, her Plan B research, which is focused on the retention and support of rural educators, will be used to understand what strategies would be most effective to include in Wyoming’s rural teaching corps.

RSC was envisioned in 2014 and formally launched in spring 2015 with a mission to build sustainable rural communities through a focus on place, teachers and philanthropy.

To learn more about RSC, click here. To view the 2021 Catalyst Grants Initiative awardees, go here.

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