We’re so pleased to be working closely again on rural education issues with our former president, Dr. Gary Funk, who now heads the Rural Schools Collaborative. Funk, who led the creation of ourRural Schools Partnership program, is working on a larger scale across the Midwest in particular, as today’s column in the Springfield News-Leader details. Rural education needs all the advocates it can get, and we’re convinced that an alliance between the two programs will be a great resource for students, educators, administrators, education foundation leaders and others committed to maintaining strong rural schools.
The new Greater Ozarks Center for Advanced Professional Studies, or GO CAPS, program will help students learn more about potential careers by immersing themselves in the first two “strands” of Engineering and Manufacturing or Medicine and Health Care starting this fall.
This immersive approach will help high school juniors and seniors from 11 area school districts, including Springfield, “test drive” their futures. Now, the program also will connect teachers to the students’ experience through a $25,000 grant awarded by the Rural Schools Partnership and the Louis L. and Julia Dorothy Coover Charitable Foundation managed by The Commerce Trust Company.
“GO CAPS is using this grant for teacher externships to allow educators to be immersed in the industry world in a real-life way,” says Julie Leeth, coordinator of the RSP, a program of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. “All of the participating GO CAPS schools except for Springfield are members of the Rural Schools Partnership. It is the goal of the externship to help teachers hone their skills to prepare students for today’s workforce.”
Lindsay Haymes, Manager of Business Assistance for the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, who is coordinating the program, says two teachers from each GO CAPS high school will spend three days with a regional business partner to learn about the company, tackle small projects and source student projects for GO CAPS.
“This will take teachers who have spent the bulk of their careers in the classroom, into business settings,” Haymes says. “This externship program takes one of the philosophical cornerstones of GO CAPS – connecting classroom learning to the real world – and offers this same opportunity to teachers across Springfield Public Schools and 10 other regional, rural school districts, whose collective impact on students will far exceed the initial GO CAPS enrollment numbers.”
The GO CAPS grant was one of four Coover Place-Based Education grants totaling $72,000 awarded at the annual Rural Schools Rendezvous, which took place at Reeds Spring High School in April. The goal of place-based education is to strengthen the bond between schools and the communities they serve.
The other grants include:
• $37,100 to Placeworks Art Initiative, which provides quality arts programming to districts that are part of the RSP. Teaching artists work with teachers to design projects that meet curricular goals and developmental needs of students, including field trips to the Springfield Art Museum.
• $7,900 to Marion C. Early School for the 5th grade class to produce a monthly newspaper for students and the community in both print and online versions.
• $2,000 to the Good Samaritan Boys Ranch 4-H Club Community Garden to grow and sell produce and flowers at the Bolivar Farmers Market. The Ranch is part of the Pleasant Hope school district.
The Rural Schools Partnership recognized 10 new members of the Ozarks Teacher Corps at its annual Rural Schools Rendezvous in Reeds Spring in April.
Each of the 10 students is a teaching education major, representing Evangel University, and Missouri State University campuses in both Springfield and West Plains. Each student will receive $4,000 scholarships for both of their last two years of school. In exchange, they must agree to teach at least their first three years in a small district – defined in the Ozarks as anything outside of Springfield or Joplin – and attend Ozarks Teacher Corps events over the next two years.
These students’ reasons for applying for the Ozarks Teacher Corps – besides a sizeable scholarship, funded by the Chesley and Flora Lea Wallis Trust – all come back to their own experiences growing up, and a desire to sustain small communities.
The members of this year’s class are (pictured, left to right): Samantha Orr, Fair Grove; McKenzie Moreland, Pierce City; Blane Redus, Marionville; Nathan Christeson, Cabool; Ashley Howell, West Plains; Jennifer Cockrum, Bakersfield; Whitney Randolph, Eminence; Danielle Best, Strafford; Brittany Witt, Lake Ozark; and Becky Wells, Republic.
Since 2010, 68 students have been accepted to the Ozarks Teacher Corps and more than 90 percent have found employment in rural districts following graduation. For more information on scholarship program, go to www.ruralschoolspartnership.org/ozarks-teacher-corps.