College students currently participating in the Ozarks Teacher Corps program attended this week’s seminar featuring renowned poverty authority Ruby Payne. With an audience of more than 1,500 community members and educators from around the region, Payne’s “Framework for Poverty” session covered some of the psychology behind not only people and poverty, but in the middle and upper classes as well. There were classroom tips and anecdotes for teachers.
Among those teachers (and future teachers) were members of the Ozarks Teacher Corps. And while Payne’s theories and discussion points are necessarily broad, these future rural educators — who in exchange for two years of $4,000 scholarships and participating in the program agree to teach in a rural school for at least three years after college — were able to apply her research and findings to life in largely impoverished rural schools.
During a group lunch discussion following Payne’s presentation, several of the OTC members made salient points about what they’d heard and what they’re experiencing in the classrooms where they are teaching or student teaching, particularly when it comes to understanding that what is happening at home plays a huge role in students’ perspective of school.
“Things go on in a student’s life that you have no idea about,” said Annie Brechbuhler, an OTC grad currently teaching instrumental music in Bradleyville, who talked about two male cousins she’s had in class who have no heat at home and were struggling in band. “We’re trying to get them to learn quarter notes and half notes, but they’re worried about how cold it’s going to be when they get home.”
“You have to open your heart. Relationships are often the only valuable things they have,” said Angelia Wade, a current OTC student.
As one of the 13 sponsoring organizations for her visit, the CFO participated in a follow-up luncheon with Payne where she laid out some action steps for the community. First, she recommended creating a “future story” – perhaps in a video format – to guide our goals. She also recommended creating a steering committee to determine what markers should guide the progress toward those goals. Developing a couple of pilot projects would be another logical step, she said. Within five years, she recommends focusing on bridging the gaps between the “underresourced” and the “resourced” by getting more of the former involved in local boards and decision-making groups. She cautioned, however, that it may take 20 years to see true progess in terms of improvement by the numbers.
The Ozarks Teacher Corps develops a cadre of talented teaching candidates who will explore rural education issues, serve as teacher interns in small schools, and commit to teaching in their respective home communities for at least three years. The overarching purpose of the Ozarks Teacher Corps is to encourage extremely capable and passionate young people to become educators and return to their rural hometowns as teacher-leaders.
This program is made possible by the Chesley and Flora Lea Wallis Trust, a $1.7 million Community Foundation of the Ozarks charitable fund.
Applications for the 2014 class of the Ozarks Teacher Corps are being accepted though Friday, March 7. You can find a downloadable application here (scroll to bottom of the page).