The University of Wisconsin-Platteville School of Education recently received a grant from the Rural Schools Collaborative (RSC), a national nonprofit committed to strengthening the bonds between schools and communities. The grant is part of RSC's I am a Rural Teacher campaign, a national advocacy effort that is supported by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The grant will support a collaboration between the RSC and the School of Education that will expand the Proud Rural Teacher podcast – created by Jessica Brogley, a lecturer in the School of Education – giving it a national audience.
“The podcast initially started as a platform for us to share our initiatives, connect ideas related to rural living and education, and gather stories of teaching in rural areas, as a means of providing direction, resources, and inspiration for others who are just like us,” said Brogley.
The podcast caught the attention of Gary Funk, executive director of the RSC, who found it to be a good fit for the I am a Rural Teacher campaign, which shares stories from rural teachers across the country. Collaborating with the RSC, Brogley will produce the Proud Rural Teacher Podcast: Stories from the Driftless, a special series from now until summer, that will celebrate the stories of educators in the Driftless region of Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota.
“We’re offering a platform for teachers in the Driftless region to share their stories of success, challenge, creative problem solving and, really, their passion for education in our rural communities,” said Brogley. “There is something very unifying in storytelling; it can create a shared experience that provides definition, awareness and inspiration. It’s important to celebrate the uniqueness of where we live and the work teachers do in those places. I’m thankful that we have this opportunity to facilitate the storytelling that represents education in the Driftless region."
According to Funk, a goal of the I am a Rural Teacher campaign is to strengthen the capacity of partners to share their rural teacher stories, in different parts of the country. Soon the Driftless region will be among other partners’ stories – from the Missouri Ozarks to New England, Appalachia, the Alabama Black Belt region and more.
“UW-Platteville’s presence in the Driftless region and history of working with students in rural communities, who then go back and serve as teachers in small towns is a great match for us,” said Funk. “I think the School of Education colleagues have a real focus on the importance of place and are doing activities that really tell the stories of folks – like the podcast – and those really align nicely with our mission and what we are trying to accomplish.”
With approximately 80% of School of Education graduates teaching in rural places, UW-Platteville is well poised for this partnership, said Dr. Jennifer Collins, director of the School of Education.
“It’s so cool to think that here in Southwest Wisconsin, there is such an opportunity for us to have our stories shared nationally,” said Collins. “There is real value in hearing our stories, just like everyone else’s stories. Particularly now, it’s important that we demonstrate that we value those voices and they have meaning and impact. It is so exciting.”