Friday, August 3, 11:00-11:30, SUB Ballroom B, Theme: Students

Addressing rural teaching recruitment and retention needs requires an innovative approach. Providing pre-service teachers with an opportunity to develop a first-hand awareness and understanding of the rural community context serves as a promising start to addressing this complex challenge. During late spring 2018, a cohort of pre-service teachers enrolled in an integrating educational technology course participated in a pilot “Tech Club” early field immersive experience in central Montana. Such an arrangement provided an opportunity to connect theory to practice in a variety of rural settings.  Participants worked closely with university field supervisors, school administrators, and classroom teachers across three different communities to gain teaching preparation via observation and implementation of several technology-rich lessons. As a result of this transformative experience, a number of key themes emerged related to: rural self-identity, educator growth, and community relationships. The presentation will offer additional context for the early field experience, discuss how this rural early field experience shaped them as aspiring professionals, and facilitate dialogue on possible changes moving forward to further enhance the experience for all stakeholders. Such a unique teacher preparatory practice offers new insights on how to best address the inherent challenges of both pre-service teacher preparation and rural teaching recruitment/retention efforts -- something that can be reasonably replicated in other teacher education programs to help better meet rural education needs.