- Last Updated on May 10, 2012
- Written by CMI Staff
Mendon, Missouri. Population 208. To paraphrase East Nashville-based folk singer, Todd Snider, “There’s a post office, fire station, ag business, a school; and that’s the whole darn town.” But this would be the assessment of the casual observer, and a closer inspection will reveal a vigorous small community, a strong rural school district, and a highly respected and adventurous fourth grade teacher.
Jennie Young has taught school in Mendon at Northwestern R-1 for 13 years. Almost every day she and her students walk by or exercise in a gymnasium where she had played high school basketball and watched her own children do the same. Young’s personal continuity can be found throughout the school. The superintendent has been with the district for 26 years; the kindergarten teacher has taught for 24. Young introduces visitors to the English teacher, third grade teacher, and school secretary, who have all been with the district for at least two decades.
“Many of the teachers are locals,” she adds. “They are really connected to the kids and the community.”
This degree of tenure is rare in small rural schools (Northwestern R-1 has 209 students, K-12), and the resulting stability creates a school climate rich in trust, support, and rootedness. Administrative and faculty turnover is one of thornier challenges facing many small rural school districts. In Mendon, however, a surprisingly familial environment is sensed quickly.
Young embraces the school’s strong sense of place, but she is not one to simply stay put. “I wouldn’t change where I live for anything,” she said, “but I do like to go;” and it is her commitment to students and her personal desire to keep learning that motivated Young to explore opportunities for summer travel grants. “I received a tip from a colleague to check out The Rural School and Community Trust, and I decided to apply for a Global Teaching Fellowship,” she said.
Young was trilled to learn she had been accepted for the program. This summer she will travel to Thailand, where for two weeks Young will serve as a teaching assistant at Bangkok’s Cross Cultural Solutions, a multi-cultural, multi-language school. During the weekends she will take cultural tours and learn more about the country and its people.
Upon her return, Young looks forward to sharing her experiences. “I hope to do a program for each elementary class,” she said. “So many of our kids will not get to leave the country (USA); too many rural people do not get to have international experiences.”
The Rural Trust Global Teacher Fellowship program annually awards up to 25 fellowships to support the professional and personal development of rural teachers. The awards (up to $5,000 for individual teachers and $10,000 for a team of two or more teachers) support teachers’ participation in self-designed summer learning experiences and a two-day place-based learning institute in the fall. Teachers are encouraged to center their learning in an international travel and study experience, out of which they develop interdisciplinary, place-based learning curricula aligned with their specific state and local content standards. The Fellows then convene for a fall gathering of fellowship and sharing.