Gary Funk has spent 30 years serving and advocating for America’s rural schools. For the last four years he has served as the director of the Rural Schools Collaborative since 2016. He’s currently running a campaign called I am a rural teacher. A teacher he recently highlighted is Haley Richardson, a second-grade teacher at University Charter School in Livingston, Alabama. Gary and Haley encourage teachers to embrace the power of place to help young people appreciate where they’re from and the opportunities that exist there. Listen in, or watch, as Gary and Haley talk to Tom. 

Key Takeaways:

[:10] About today’s episode with Gary Funk and Haley Richardson.
[:50] Tom welcomes Gary Funk and Haley Richardson to the podcast!
[1:01] Haley speaks about her upbringing, family, and early education.
[2:20] Why Haley and her brother both decided to pursue a career in education.
[3:36] Gary shares about his upbringing, family, and early education.
[5:15] What attracts Haley to teaching in rural communities.
[6:55] Why rural schools are so important and, in particular, why it has become a focal point in Gary’s career.
[9:00] Why schools are integral to the life and community of a rural area.
[9:45] Why a community loses a lot when they lose a school and the negative impact of the consolidation of schools.
[11:05] The surge of micro-schools during the pandemic and how they’re helping re-conceptualize what schools are.
[12:48] At the University Charter School (UCS), Haley had the chance to be a part of the founding faculty. She shares about her experiences there as well as the origin of the school.
[14:04] How they’re expanding UCS going forward.
[14:22] Is UCS on the campus of the University of West Alabama (UWS)?
[14:38] Do they offer student teaching opportunities at UWS?
[15:15] About the Black Belt Teacher Corps program at UWS.
[16:30] About the Rural Schools Collaborative that Gary runs.
[18:45] Why a sense of place is so important to cultivate especially in a rural school.
[21:34] Gary shares his take on why place is so critical for rural schools as well as how they can better embrace where they’re from to deepen their roots and their connection to the towns that support them.
[26:20] Further discussing place-based education and Haley’s relationship with the Place Network Schools.
[28:51] Some of the challenges with teaching in a rural area.
[31:50] Haley shares some words of encouragement for those considering becoming a rural teacher.
[33:00] What Rural Schools Collaborative is trying to accomplish with the “I Am a Rural Teacher” campaign.
[34:53] Tom thanks Gary and Haley for joining the podcast!

Mentioned in This Episode:

Rural Schools Collaborative
I Am a Rural Teacher Campaign
Haley Richardson’s Rural Teacher Feature on I Am a Rural Teacher
University Charter School (UCS)
“The Hobbit Effect: Why Small Works in Public Schools,” by Lorna Jimerson
Teton Science Schools
Place Network Schools
The Power of Place: Authentic Learning Through Place-Based Education, by Tom Vander Ark,
Emily Liebtag, and Nate McClennen

I Am a Rural Teacher: Haley Richardson of Alabama (Video)
National Rural Education Association

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