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2/16/2017 Future teachers get taste of rural schools, Westcliffe-style
The eleven student teachers who visited Custer County schools and community last week seem to have left with very positive impressions about rural and small town life in our Valley. Sandra Busby, who plans to be an art educator, spent last Thursday in all grade levels, and enthused about her experience: “What a friendly community, and what a wonderful school!” Lexi Hewitt, who intends to be a science teacher, was engaged with high school students, and said of her time here, “I so enjoyed the friendly, welcoming community, and the kids are just super!” The “Experience Rural Colorado Teacher Recruitment Event” grant supported program was the fourth and last in the state, sponsored by Colorado State University (CSU) Pueblo and the Generation Schools Network. Designed to attract and keep student teachers in Colorado’s rural schools, the program was hosted here as part of the school district’s similarly shared mission to attract teachers into the county, and to maintain them for professional careers here. The CSU Pueblo teacher education staff in attendance included Angela Powers, Ph.D., the Rural Education Project Coordinator, and Jeremiah Blaha, Student Teaching and Field Experience Coordinator. They both gave glowing reviews of their Custer County exposure, over pizza at Tony’s during last Thursday’s community dinner honoring the students. Board of Education members Terre Davis, Monty Lee, and Bob Jolley were there, as were commissioners Bob Kattnig and Jay Printz, along with several school volunteers from the community. Although District Superintendent Mark Payler has not yet seen any applications to date from the visiting student teachers, he understands that a few may be applying online. Payler goes on to note, “I think we raised awareness of the virtues and positives about teaching in a rural setting. Overall the candidates were impressed with Custer County, our staff and our students. Our hope is they go back to their respective schools and share the ‘good news’ about Custer County's schools with their peers and if not now, in the future, consider our schools as a place to touch and impact the lives of our children - and who could ask for more.” The experience was so gratifying that Payler would “love to do it again.” Because the program was grant funded though, outside funding would be needed to continue it on an annual basis. On a hopeful note though, Payler concludes, “It is my understanding that there are several donors interested in continuing this in the future.” – W.A. Ewing