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STEM Teachers: Are You Ready for the Country?

The idea of teaching in a rural school might seem appealing for many educators. In a profession where salaries are relatively modest, depending on the state and district, why not work someplace where the cost of living is low? It's also worth noting that, as educators often wish that parents were more involved in students' academic lives, small-town life has its advantages. There’s a good chance that teachers will get to know parents—running into them at the supermarket, at the movie theater, at the local football game. Whether they like it or not.

Unfortunately, many rural districts struggle to attract and keep teachers, particularly in areas like math and science. In some cases, teachers who come to small or remote districts find themselves pining for the attractions of a bigger city or professional opportunities they believe a larger district can provide. I’ve written about efforts by universities and federal officials to provide additional training to rural teachers in math and science, in the hope of persuading them to stick around.

An Indiana program, run by Purdue University and other institutions in Indiana, appears to have a similar mission. Fifty-eight teachers, out of 300 applicants, were chosen to take part in the rural educators’ program, which will provide them with $30,000 stipends and additional tuition assistance. They’ll also receive training, through efforts such as “STEM Goes Rural,” run by Purdue, according to a story in the Associated Press.

For college students and career-changers considering math or science teaching, how much a factor are geographic considerations? We’ve written about the long-standing struggle to staff urban schools with qualified teachers. Are the needs of rural districts being underplayed?

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