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Dr. Renée Middleton, Dean of The Patton College of Education:  The Rural Urban Collaborative began as an idea to bring rural and urban communities together with one goal in mind - prepare our preservice teachers to teach anywhere.

The Collaborative is an initiative among Ohio University, The Ohio State University, Columbus City Schools and collaborating schools across Appalachia. It will provide both rural and urban field experiences for students enrolled in Ohio University and the Ohio State University, preparing them to enter any teaching environment. Since Dr. Harris (?) and I first communicated, I have been very eager to get started here in the College of Education, and I am thrilled to assist in hosting our first gathering.

Through this Collaborative, we cannot only help prepare our students for the changing landscape of teaching, but also help them to foster a deeper awareness of how to examine, understand and assess a variety of cultural experiences and issues, whether they be based on gender, race, class or locality (urban – rural – and suburban).

We want our students to learn critical thinking through cultural immersion and question stereotypes that exist in all cultural settings, not just the settings they are most familiar with. Ultimately, we want to produce leaders who make sound decisions based on a solid foundation of cultural knowledge, and this institute will enable us to do just that.  

But it is not just the students who will benefit. This opportunity is unique because it also provides a necessary link between Ohio University, the Ohio State University and local schools district personnel in rural Appalachia and Columbus. Together, we can start to identify the positive components and the challenges associated with a rural/urban experience for preservice teachers and expand the opportunity for school districts to participate. In the future, I look for this partnership to grow and become a staple in the College of Education. I want all graduates of Ohio University to have a solid foundation in cultural issues and to enter their teaching environments with confidence.

Dr. Kent Smith, Vice President for Student Affairs: We live in a very different world than when I was preparing to enter a classroom, and our students need to be equally prepared for that world. 

Once our students leave our Universities, they will be exposed to a myriad of complex cultural issues, and it’s up to us to prepare them.

Exposing them to teaching environments in both rural and urban settings, will enable them to learn strategies to cope with the challenges they will face, and there is no doubt that they will face challenges. But we can offer them something truly unique - experience in multiple environments, so that no matter where they go in their lives or where their lives take them, they are always ready for the classroom. 

I am fully confident that this initiative will help lead Ohio University and the Ohio State University students into the future of Education.

Dr. Gene Harris, Superintendent of Columbus City Schools: As Superintendent of Columbus City Schools, I understand the challenges that come with catering to a diverse student body, and the necessity of preparing teachers to educate children from varying backgrounds.

Columbus City Schools has a very diverse population. The district educates about 55,000 students, including 5,000 students receiving English as a second language services, 10,000 students in gifted and talented programs, and 8,000 students receiving special education services. The racial composition of our district is also very diverse, with 62% of students being black, 27% being white, 6% being Hispanic and the remainder of the students identifying as multicultural.

These statistics give you just a small glimpse of the diversity that exists in and affects Columbus City Schools.

Initiatives like the Rural/Urban Collaborative are essential in preparing teachers to work in large, diverse districts and small, rural districts. The experience helps enable teachers to identify the challenges that are associated with schools and communities in both rural and urban settings, preparing them to assess and overcome them once they reach the classroom.

It is my hope that this project will help also to identify positive components of rural and urban experiences, with opportunities to expand our knowledge and understanding of each environment. It is important for students to realize the ways in which contemporary and historical contexts shape and affect K-12 public school students.

While there are many goals of this initiative, one stands above the rest: we must ensure that all students learn.

 

 

 

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