Eastern Oregon University > Mountaineer Magazine > Summer 2022 > At the hub: College of Education links PNW rural schools

At the hub: College of Education links PNW rural schools

Rural Schools Collaborative executive director Taylor McCabe-Juhnke.

Established as a teacher’s college and long esteemed as a source of teacher instruction, EOU recently partnered with the Rural Schools Collaborative to bolster rural teacher preparation and community engagement. 

The Rural Schools Collaborative is a national nonprofit based in Illinois with 12 regional hubs that facilitate shared work. As the Pacific Northwest Hub, EOU will serve Oregon and Washington. 

Dave Dallas, an instructor in the College of Education and the new contact for the Pacific Northwest Hub, said EOU’s status as Oregon’s Rural University pairs well with ongoing efforts to work with local schools. The hub at EOU will serve as a repository of resources and expertise to share with disparate rural communities.

“This partnership is such a natural fit for both organizations,” Rural Schools Collaborative Executive Director Taylor McCabe-Juhnke said. “After meeting Dave, it was clear that EOU’s commitment to their rural districts and rural students permeates everything they do. Collaboration is what we’re all about, and we are thrilled to support and strengthen the existing good work in this region.”

A grant from the Oregon Department of Education allowed Dallas and his colleagues to establish Teach Rural Oregon (TRO). The multifaceted project focuses on recruiting, training, and supporting educators in rural and isolated districts. The program emphasizes the recruitment of diverse student teachers, including first-generation college students, to complete their student teaching in far-flung districts across Oregon.

In practice, TRO engages each step of the teacher pipeline, beginning with the Eastern Oregon Teacher Academy. This early outreach program invites high school students and paraprofessionals to “a four-day exposure to all the possibilities of teaching rural, to attend keynote addresses by teachers of the year, and to meet EOU faculty.” 

Pre-service teachers from EOU’s community college partners also have an opportunity to participate in the Junior Field Study Program at a rural school with housing, food, and a stipend all provided by the university.

“Part of the impetus for the field program was to help students consider the possibilities of teaching in a rural district,” Dallas said. 

While the College of Education is committed to providing quality teacher instruction through TRO, Dallas also recognizes that new and existing teachers in the region need tools for managing community and personal isolation. Community integration of new teachers is a challenge anywhere, and this is acutely felt by historically underrepresented people seeking education careers. 

“How do we help people get into and join very small rural communities that are isolated and may not provide the support networks they need?” Dallas asks. “Particularly if they don’t equate themselves with the things that traditionally keep those communities together, like faith groups, social groups, and sports.”

Dallas and EOU are hopeful that the new relationship with Rural Schools Collaborative will spark ideas and provide tools to address this question and more. 

“I find that because of the distance and isolation it’s sometimes difficult for people to realize what others are doing—that is something we can adopt and adapt from efforts in other states,” Dallas said.  

As the hub grows, Dallas looks forward to elevating more stories about the work of rural teachers and schools across the Pacific Northwest.