This week (April 9–13) marks HGSE Rural Educators Alliance’s first Rural Education Week — “Recognizing and Reckoning with Ruralness.” The student group will host a number of events on campus that explore a variety of challenges unique to educating in rural settings. Co-founder of the Rural Educators Alliance (REA), master’s candidate Carlye Sayler, hopes this week’s events will help increase attention on a field that is often overlooked. “We believe that HGSE, as one of the world’s leading academic institutions, has the responsibility to change the conversation in order to improve student opportunity, achievement, and success in rural communities,” she says, stressing that rural education needs to be part of the dialogue around providing quality education to all. In this Q&A, Sayler talks about Rural Education Week and how the REA is working towards creating a more equitable education system.
Who makes up the Rural Educators Alliance (REA)?
The Rural Educators Alliance comprises diverse individuals with various personal and professional involvement in rural education. Many of us have taught in rural schools in the United States and abroad, and several of us plan to move back to those communities after our time at HGSE.
Why do we need to raise awareness around rural education?
We need to raise awareness about rural education because many of our students are living in rural school districts. In fact, in the United States almost 9 million students attend rural schools which is more than the enrollments of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and the next 75 largest school districts combined. More than one in six students attends a rural school and, as educators, we believe that every student deserves our care and attention.
Rural communities and schools face particular challenges that cannot always be addressed by the same policies and practices as other places. Poverty, unemployment, and a distinct lack of access to health care and other important resources create situations that require specific responses.
What can the community look forward to during Rural Education Week?
There are six very interesting and informative events that students can attend throughout [this] week! Each panel focuses on a different issue in rural education that we hope HGSE will take up in the future. The speakers that you will hear from include current HGSE students with experience in rural education, as well as artists, activists, experts, and practitioners from across the country.
Throughout the week, we will discuss both the unique challenges and the special opportunities that exist in rural communities. Among other things, conversations will include international rural education, teacher recruitment and retention, identity in rural communities, gender and sexual diversity in rural schools, and indigenous education.
What do you hope HGSE will gain from this week?
The purpose of this series is to explore some of the distinct questions facing rural regions of the world, and to bring them to the forefront of discussions at HGSE with the hope of creating a lasting dialogue.
To learn more and for a list of event descriptions, please visit the HGSE Rural Education Alliance website.
Special thanks to REA members Sarah Baver, Ellie Moore, Shirley Vargas, and Liz Williams.