By Charlie Reed
With a strong track record of supporting rural schools and education, UT Chattanooga (UTC) recently partnered with Rural Schools Collaborative (RSC) to further that good work.
UTC will serve as the organization’s Appalachia Regional Hub and work to improve the K–12 education workforce throughout the region.
“This partnership will allow us to bring opportunities to rural districts in the area that they may not have seen from UTC in a while. That ability to meet their needs and what they’re looking for fits into how we’re sharing this work as a rural teacher hub,” said Allen Pratt, interim co-director of the UTC School of Education and executive director of the National Rural Education Association based at UTC. “The teacher shortage is a big issue and we have to make sure that current and future teachers are ready to meet the needs schools are facing right now.
The biggest thing is making sure people are exposed to those needs and are ready to go out and help.”
One program poised to significantly impact southeastern Tennessee’s rural communities is the University of Tennessee System’s Grow Your Own (GYO) Center, which establishes GYO hubs at four UT campuses.
With 17 rural districts surrounding UTC, Pratt is excited for how collaborating with RSC and other institutions in the Appalachian Region will enhance this work.
“Being a rural teacher hub makes sense with this new GYO teacher apprenticeship work in terms doing outreach and offering resources to rural districts,” Pratt said. “We’re not standalone; we’re here for the collaboration to help rural Appalachia.
We’re just one part of the whole. As our country has changed, we need to change as an institution to be able to meet the needs of rural districts. We’ve always been out in those districts, so I think this outreach—and what we can do for rural schools—is a natural fit for us.”
Another element strengthening UTC’s growing role in the rural education landscape will come later this year when the National Rural Education Association hosts its annual National Forum to Advance Rural Education on Nov. 16-17 at the Chattanooga Marriott Downtown. The forum convenes rural education scholars, administrators, advocates and practitioners, drawing attendees from 48 states last year.
“With experts and allies from across the rural landscape converging in UTC’s backyard later this year, the opportunity is ripe to showcase the collaborative and innovative spirit with which Pratt and his team at the School of Education are charging forward in the region,” Rural Schools Collaborative Partnerships Manager John Glasgow said.