Amherst Teachers Talk Rural Teaching in the Midwest with Department of Education

Judy Hartnett's picture
Monday, March 26, 2012

Rural schools’ needs are different than those of urban schools, Amherst Public Schools teachers say.

U.S. Department of Education representatives met Friday with six Amherst teachers to discuss the rural teaching experience.

Bruce Wellman, a chemistry teacher at Olathe Northwest High School in Kansas, is a Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow for the U.S. Department of Education.

He meets with teachers to gather information that will be used to transform federal education policy as part of the RESPECT Project.

The RESPECT Project aims to work with educators to spark national conversation about transforming teaching. RESPECT stands for Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching.

Wellman’s goal at Amherst was to listen to the concerns and ideas of rural teachers.

“With the national discussion, we hear a lot about urban teachers,” Wellman said.

One vision from the government for new education policy includes transforming the school day and school year.“In a transformed education profession, the academic needs of the student body would determine the structure of the school day, week and year,” the RESPECT Project outline says. “Students would no longer be held in lockstep, age-based grades but would instead progress through the system based on what they know and can do.”

The outline serves as a draft of goals and a discussion document for use in conversations with teachers and principals about the teaching profession.Changing the hours in the school day or the structure of the school year may work for urban students, Wellman said.

But teachers at Amherst worried about the students who come from farming families. Many students perform a few hours of chores before the school day and finish their farm chores after extracurricular activities in the evening, said business teacher Karla Rohde.

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