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Tips for Better Supporting, Preparing Culturally Diverse Teaching Force

Rural administrators who want to better prepare and support a culturally diverse teaching force need to vary recruitment strategies, seek partnerships, and promote a culture of collaboration, according to a new study.

Those are among a list of suggestions in "Teacher Identity in a Multicultural Rural School: Lessons Learned at Vista Charter" published in the Journal of Research in Rural Education. The study's authors include: Kerri J. Wenger, Jan Dinsmore, and Amanda Villagómez, all of Eastern Oregon University, in La Grande, Ore.

The study involved 30 months of research at a high-poverty, bilingual charter school in rural eastern Oregon. They gave the school a pseudonym, Vista Charter, and teachers weren't identified.

The school opened in 2003, and it's the only bilingual school within a 50-mile radius. Students there learn K-5 lessons in English and Spanish, and seven of its 12 teachers in 2011-12 were bilingual.

Researchers interviewed teachers about their histories and observed them in classrooms. They set out to look at three major issues:
• Do teachers have shared beliefs that influence their practice?
• Does the school context itself play a role in the teachers' beliefs and identities?
• What are the implications of the prior two questions' answers for rural school leaders and teacher education programs?

Much of the study is dedicated to explaining teachers' backgrounds and exploring the five core beliefs they shared. Those were: that all teachers were valued and valuable and had different roads into the profession; that all teachers expected to learn from the diverse student body and teaching staff; that all expected to collaborate for professional development; that "we teach who we are"; and that the school was a safe place to grow as a teacher.

With that in mind, researchers offered a list of seven ways rural administrators could support teachers in diverse settings. In addition to those already mentioned, the others were: supporting teachers in the multiple roles they serve, evaluating the school mission so that it incorporates students' multicultural competence, providing teacher-selected professional development, and knowing and involving the community and families.

The study gave deeper explanations on those areas. It also offered seven recommendations for rural teacher education programs. Those are included in the study.

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