Alumna focuses solely on rural education through new textbook

Written by Ruth Wendlandt on |
Ann Schulte

University of Wisconsin-Platteville alumna Dr. Ann Schulte is impacting future Pioneer educators through her new textbook Teaching in Rural Places: Thriving in Classrooms, Schools, and Communities. Starting this fall, the School of Education will unveil its new K-9th grade, place-based rurally responsive teacher preparation program and will be using Schulte’s book.

“When we started to envision this new program, a suitable textbook focused on rural teacher preparation did not exist,” said Dr. Jennifer Collins, Director of the School of Education. “Imagine our great surprise when Teaching in Rural Places: Thriving in Classrooms, Schools, and Communities was released. Not only did it cover the content that we wanted for our future rural educators, one of our own was a contributing author. Ann has provided us with a great narrative to share with our students; that the work that we do in rural spaces is unique and important and that Pioneers can and should be taking what they learn on campus and sharing it with the broader community.”

“I am so pleased and honored to know that the text will be used to prepare teachers in that area that had a big part in shaping my trajectory as a teacher educator,” added Schulte, who earned her Master of Science in Education from UW-Platteville in 1997. “It’s definitely a full circle moment.

Schulte, who is a Professor of Education at California State University, Chico began her teaching career in rural classroom settings in Iowa and South Dakota. Throughout her 30-year career, Schulte has remained involved in rural teacher preparation and was invited to co-author the textbook with other rural education scholars: Amy Price Azano, Devon Brenner, Jayne Downey, and Karen Eppley. 

“I was excited to write the book because I really wanted to learn more about rural education research from these established scholars, and I also felt I had some experiences from rural California that added some necessary dimensions to the work,” said Schulte. “We hope that future teachers understand that all rural places have their own unique culture, and part of being a teacher in a community is coming to know that community – whether you live in the community or commute to it. We also hope that they come to understand the histories of inequity for people in poverty and people of color and how those injustices show up in rural spaces.” 

According to Schulte, for more than 25 years so many teacher education programs have focused on urban education. She noted when she was earning her doctorate at UW-Madison, the emphasis was focused on preparing rural Wisconsin students to teach in a larger environment. However, when Schulte began her tenure at Chico, she noticed that most of the students were student teaching in rural settings.

“It’s important that all teacher preparation considers context, whether it be urban, suburban, or rural, because places matters,” she said. “Place shapes the identity of those who live there and it also provides context to relate and apply some of what students learn.”

The book is designed to bring awareness to rural educational settings, where oftentimes smaller school districts have less amenities and resources.

“They can lack broadband access, advanced curriculum options, and access to college-going culture. Teachers may be the only one of their subject or grade level in a district,” said Schulte. “Students may have a teacher who is also their basketball coach, their 4H leader, and their cousin. All of these are unique characteristics to rural spaces and teachers would be better prepared to deal with all of these circumstances if they had learned about some of them in their teacher preparation program.”

Schulte earned her Master of Science in Education, Middle Level Education from UW-Platteville and credits the university and her instructors with giving her another avenue of studying rural education, and wanting to continue in the field of academia. 

“Living in Platteville is part of why I ended up becoming a professor,” she said. “I had intended to go back to classroom teaching after I finished my master’s, but I was so taken with the intellectual stimulation of graduate school, and after I spent some time in Madison where the air seemed to drip with provocation, I just had to go live there – so I applied for my Ph.D. and kept going to school.”

As a new class of Pioneers approach graduation during a global pandemic, Schulte gives three pieces of advice for new teachers embarking on their career: healthy people make better teachers, students deserve to be seen and honored for who they are, and get really clear about your purpose as an adult who educates young people.

“Teaching is a hard and complex job in the best of circumstances, so it’s important that you know how to take care of your mental and emotional health,” she said. “Who your students are determines so much about how and what you will teach them – there will be many expectations put on you about what and how to teach, and sometimes there will be more expected of you than you can ever do sufficiently. Determine how you can best honor your students as learners, and whenever the work feels overwhelming or unobtainable, let that purpose guide your decision-making.”