- Last Updated on June 6, 2012
- Written by CMI Staff
Rural Communities across the country are struggling with decreasing rates of qualified young teachers who want to fill teaching positions in their communities. GoTeach South Dakota is a federally funded Teacher Quality Partnership grant, working to address that need in rural South Dakota. It seeks to train and retain rural teachers coming out of the University of South Dakota (USD) through an education program specifically designed to prepare education majors to teach in its rural communities.
As part of the GoTeach program, education majors at USD participate in a program designed to develop and prepare them to teach in rural South Dakota. Participating students are enrolled in a track of USD school of education that offers all the benefits of the education program as well as unique course work and experiences that specifically address the needs of rural education. When they graduate, GoTeach teachers are placed in qualifying communities in rural South Dakota where they are able to use their specialized courses, experiences and mentoring to enhance the lives of the K-12 children in that community. GoTeach believes that through recruiting teachers specifically trained for rural districts, children will be taught by motivated and qualified teachers no matter where they live.
Rural schools qualify for the GoTeach based on poverty levels and teacher need. There are currently 19 qualifying high-need school districts participating in the program and 49 schools within those districts.
GoTeach is based on five components:
Identify: Some people have a passion for teaching in a rural setting. GoTeach South Dakota will identify those students and enroll them in the program.
Prepare: Teaching in a rural school is different than teaching in an urban setting. As a part of the program, students will receive special social/cultural training that will better prepare them for teaching in the rural setting.
Support: Research tells us that first-year teachers are more successful when they receive the support of a mentor. GoTeach South Dakota participants will receive the support of a mentor during their undergraduate field experiences as well during their first two years of employment following graduation.
Recruit: Schools often go it alone when attempting to attract and retain teachers. The GoTeach South Dakota program will provide support in the recruitment and retention process to interested communities.
Train: Training will be provided to GoTeach South Dakota participants and mentor teachers. Educators in participating schools will be provided access to this same training.
In 2010 the program was redesigned “to make our teacher education program to a bit more relevant to the world that we know our young people are going to be heading out into,” explains Rick Meimer, USD Dean of Education.
In the redesigned program, students spend three years on campus and their fourth year in a full year residency program where they rotate to different experiences within their content areas while also taking classes at the University.
“They will be teaching one day and then next day, they come to class where they can talk about the things that are happening on in the classroom, get ideas, go back and try them,” says Mary Collins, GoTeach program coordinator.
“We think it is going to be great preparation for life as a classroom teacher after graduation,” says Meimer.
Tiffany Buehner is the first student to go through the program, and is currently completing her residency.
“The year long student teaching experience has taught me so much through allowing me to experience teaching in a real school. I was the first one to go through the program, so it has been a lot of trial and error,” says Tiffany. “The biggest surprise has been how much time in and out of the classes that you put in.”
Student Andrew Dellman recalls that he had not originally planned on going into rural education; “I talked to my advisor, and he asked if I had thought of teaching in a rural area,” he says. Dellman did his research, spoke with Mary Collins, and several others, and decided that teaching in a rural area would be a good fit.
Dellman has yet to begin his full year teaching residency, but, so far, he has found that the program’s focus onprofessional development has been most helpful. As part of his training, USD has brought in teachers from rural communities, as well as other individuals involved in the program, to speak about their experiences in rural education and how best to prepare. Through these seminars, Dellman feels that he has learned a lot about “what it means to be a teacher in a rural community and what to expect.”
School districts who actively participate can expect the following benefits:
- An opportunity to hire teachers with a passion for teaching in rural places and who have been trained to meet the needs of rural schools.
- A reduction of teacher turnover resulting in cost savings.
- Graduate level coursework for school based mentor teachers.
- Access to professional development resources for teachers in participating schools.
- Assistance with the change process.
- Increased student achievement due to improved teacher education and preparation.
The program is supported by a strong team of partners:
- The Mid-Central Educational Cooperative is the main partner of GoTeach and the fiscal agent for the GoTeach program. It oversees both the programs funds as well as the collaboration between the University of South Dakota and participating high-need schools.
- The University of South Dakota of education provides the bulk of the services for the GoTeach program. It is responsible for hosting and conducting the coursework associated with the baccalaureate curriculum offerings, and working to design and oversee the expanded clinical component of the GoTeach program. USD also supplies many of the training activities for mentors in both the clinical and induction program and supervise their progress.
- The Rural Learning Center acts as one of the digital education content providers and provides a variety of services to ensure participants are able to successfully navigate and remain at their jobs within rural high-need schools.
- The South Dakota Department of Education's Office of Indian Education provides professional training opportunities for participating teachers, helping to bring them into line with state efforts to infuse education with Native American culture.
- The American Indian Institute for Innovation assists the Rural Learning Center and other partners in designing relevant cultural content, and will be directly involved in all hands-on work within communities with high Native American populations, served by participating high-need schools.
- The USD Office of Institutional Diversity assists AIII and the RLC in the task of preparing prospective teachers by providing culturally relevant professional development training activities.