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Rural Urban Collaborative Celebrates a Decade of Teacher Preparation 

RUC Mindy Rutherford

The Rural Urban Collaborative (RUC), which seeks to prepare teacher candidates to work in diverse settings, hosted its 20th Symposium at Ohio University-Lancaster this past spring semester. More than 200 students attended the event, as this semester marks the 10-year anniversary of the program.

“Celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the Rural Urban Collaborative is a testament to its importance in preparing our teacher candidates to meet the needs of our diverse student population,” said Dr. Frans Doppen, chair of Teacher Education. “As our country becomes increasingly diverse, it is of paramount importance that we continue this highly successful experiential program.”

RUC is a collaboration between Ohio University and numerous school partners. It provides teacher candidates with both a rural and urban school experience, thus exposing them to the realities of teaching any student in any setting. RUC’s mission is to help teacher candidates “develop a deeper awareness of how to examine, understand, and assess a variety of cultural experiences and issues based on gender, race, social class, and geographic locale . . . through cultural immersion and critical classroom dialogue based on a solid foundation of cultural knowledge.” 

“Cultural diversity in schools is rapidly increasing, and our teacher candidates need to be prepared for the ever-changing landscape of education and teaching,” said Dr. Mindy Rutherford, RUC program coordinator. “RUC gives students a well-rounded field experience and improves their marketability after graduation.”

Prior to RUC, Patton College teacher candidates only had clinical experiences in rural schools. They are now required to have a structured educational experience in an urban setting as well. In fact, The Patton College is the only educator preparation program in the state of Ohio that requires sophomore teacher candidates to a) participate in a day-long symposium that addresses systemic myths related to urban and rural school settings and b) participate in an urban field experience with structured experiential outcomes. RUC is required across the entire Unit of Education, including regional campuses, Fine Arts, and Arts & Sciences.

RUC was a product of The Patton College and the vision of Dean Renée A. Middleton. She worked with Doppen and a RUC Planning Committee – which was comprised of faculty and staff across Ohio University’s various branch campuses – to develop the program. The goal was to bring rural and urban communities together under one mission: prepare pre-service teachers to teach anywhere.

“Many of our students arrive in Athens only knowing the rural experience,” said Middleton. “As the world continues to become more diverse, it’s important for teacher candidates to feel comfortable working with all students in all settings.”

RUC seeks to integrate teacher preparation with schools, communities, and their leaders. It began as a voluntary field experience for interested teacher candidates, with Rutherford offering the experience to her EDTE 2020 students in 2010. By 2011, it became a requirement for all teacher candidates within The Patton College.

RUC has grown considerably over the last decade. Initially a 30-member volunteer program, it now places more than 400 teacher candidates in urban schools each year, with students spending at least 30 hours in an urban setting. In 2016-17, for example, RUC placed 197 students in the fall, 196 in the spring, and 47 in the summer for a total of 440. RUC participants are asked to research their school’s demographics, compare it to their own educational experiences, and write about ethnic identity, ways to avoid bias in the classroom, closing the achievement gap, and the role that socioeconomic status plays in education. They must also interview teachers and students and write a self-reflection.

RUC Student Interview


Rutherford surveys teacher candidates after their RUC experience and has found that they are more likely to consider teaching in an urban setting after their observation, which is certainly encouraging. It means they found the experience positive and enriching.

“The Rural Urban Collaborative has expanded not only the depth and diversity of our field-placement opportunities, but also the minds, hearts, and career plans of many of our teacher candidates,” said Rutherford. “Our students are learning the importance of embracing diversity early in their education at OHIO. Many teacher candidates have requested to visit their school extra days simply to spend time with the students, and they have said that this experience has changed their mind and made them want to teach at an urban school upon graduation.”

Rutherford spoke at the Feb. 9 Symposium, as did former RUC students Lauren Perkins, Rebecca Hulse, and Aaron Lawson. There was also a Principal Panel featuring three principals – Terri Garrett (Gorsuch West Elementary School), Pam Bertke (Lakeview Junior High School), and Kirk Henderson (Canal Winchester) – as well as Brian Lawson, dean of students at Thomas Ewing Junior High. Diversity, acceptance, and inclusion were central themes explored throughout the day.

“RUC is one of several ways that The Patton College prepares teacher candidates to teach in 21st-century classrooms,” said Middleton. “I am proud of how far the program has come, and I am excited for its future.”

 

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CARE Program Wins PDS Achievement Award at National Conference

 

College of Education’s Creating Active and Reflective Educators (CARE) program at its annual conference in March in Jacksonville, Florida. NAPDS recognized the College’s Professional Development Schools (PDS) partnership with Federal Hocking Schools as “Exemplary PDS Achievement.”


Federal Hocking CARE students

"This recognition from NAPDS affirms the hard work and dedication of The Patton College faculty and education administrators who work hand-in-hand with the Federal Hocking teachers and school administrators in our CARE PDS partnership,” said Renée A. Middleton, dean of The Patton College of Education. “Together, we have a common interest in seeking to positivelyimpact P-12 student learning.” 

The CARE program was recognized for its “culture of collaboration and shared accountability,” as well as its leadership in the PDS movement nationally. Both partners are deeply invested financially and programmatically in supporting the educational needs of Federal Hocking students while also preparing the College’s teacher candidates.

“The Patton College and our local schools are honored to serve as a model for other PDS partnerships, but we never stop emphasizing reflective practice and sharing of ideas to continually improve existing programming,” said Middleton. “This award is evidence that we can achieve great things when we work together for a common goal."

CARE student cohort studying


A Professional Development School is a partnership between P-12 schools and institutions of higher learning, which work together to provide broader training for teacher candidates. To effectively prepare candidates, programs must allow for opportunities to learn how theory and practice are intertwined.

CARE is one of many partnership programs based on the clinical model of education, where greater emphasis is placed on clinical preparation, not course-based outcomes. The preparation of teachers, ideally, should involve P-12 students, teachers, teacher candidates, and university faculty and researchers working as one educational team. It should also include a commitment to explore the democratic notion of the common good as it applies to one’s local, national, and global citizenship.

The “Exemplary PDS Achievement” award is the College’s second, as it has also been recognized for its partnership with Athens City Schools.

 

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