Collaborative professional learning opportunities are essential for educator success, regardless of school or district size. For many rural educators, however, these opportunities are hard to come by. Educators in rural, remote areas are often the only teacher in their grade level, subject area, or entire school, and therefore have few colleagues they can to turn to for feedback, ideas, and encouragement. As a new video from Education Northwest shows, this is beginning to change.
In 2013, the Northwest Comprehensive Center and Boston College launched the Northwest Rural Innovation and Student Engagement (NW RISE) Network to help state education agencies better support their rural districts. Today, it is a thriving, member-led professional learning collaborative of nearly 30 rural schools and districts across Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Member K–12 teachers and leaders meet virtually and in person throughout the year—primarily in job-alike groups—to connect with teachers from other rural areas in the region who teach the same subject areas or grade levels and struggle with the same challenges. State education agency staff members also participate to better understand rural educators’ needs and to collaborate with staff from other states on new and innovative ways to support rural schools.
In the seven-minute video, cofounder and facilitator Andy Hargreaves of Boston College describes how educators have gradually taken ownership of the work: “First it was for teachers, then it was with teachers, and now it’s predominantly by teachers.” Several teachers also talk about their experiences in NW RISE, including Amy Hill of Glenns Ferry, Idaho, who reflects on the network’s growth from a handful of districts to a vital resource that connects her to a large group of K–2 teachers who share ideas and plan classroom projects together.
If you or someone you know is interested in collaborating with other rural educators from across the Northwest region, please contact Danette Parsley at 503-275-9633. Also, visit our NW RISE page to learn more and to see a map of current member districts. You can read about NW RISE in Battelle for Kids’ national study Generating Opportunity and Prosperity: The Promise of Rural Education Collaboratives and in the Peabody Journal of Education.