HomePlace-Based ForumExpanding Horizons Is Goal of Rural Trust Fellow

Expanding Horizons Is Goal of Rural Trust Fellow

Editor's Note:  This is CMI's fourth feature on Global Teacher Fellows from the Heartland.  For a blogpost on Mendon, Missouri's Jennie Young, click on this link http://www.cmi.ruraledu.org/place-based-forum/89-global-fellowship-bridge-to-the-world-for-missouri-teacher and go to the "comments" section.  Jennie was featured earlier on our website.

Standing next to the greenhouse of tiny West Prairie High School (with its enrollment of 200), near the hamlet of Sciota, Illinois, the horizon is a dominant feature.  Looking to the north, grain bins loom large, centered between the goal posts of a football field—a scene right out of the Last Picture Show.  To the east, it is simply farmland as far as the eye can see; to the west, a state highway disappears into the distance, as if mimicking a high school art project on perspective.

The work that Global Teaching Fellow, Corinne Galvan, has done with her students epitomizes the broad horizons that surround her and her school in a manner befitting of juxtaposition.  Planted in the dead center of American industrial agriculture, Galvan and her students operate a greenhouse that grows produce from heirloom seeds and sells it at local famers’ markets.  And, in a place where the sense of “ruralness” is only interrupted by the wind, Galvan and her West Prairie colleagues will embark on a program next year where every student in the school will be issued an ipad, integrating the newest technology into every aspect of the school’s curriculum.

Balancing the past, present, and future seems to come naturally to Galvan, who was born in the little town of Colchester, Illinois, just a few miles from West Prairie.  Following in the footsteps of her mother (a middle school teacher), Corinne received a Golden Apple Scholarship to attend highly competitive University of Illinois, where she studied agriculture and education.  Although her stellar credentials could have landed her a job in many places, Galvan decided to return to her home district where she soon began to pursue a Master’s degree at nearby Western Illinois University.  It was through her graduate school experience that she learned about The Rural School and Community Trust’s Global Teaching Fellowship program.

“My professor, Dr. Jim LaPrad, has a strong interest in place-based education, and he encouraged me to look into the Rural Trust’s program.”  Hoping to gain experiences that would broaden her students’ horizons, Galvan applied for a fellowship and was thrilled to learn she had been accepted.

corrineThanks to the Rural Trust, Corinne will travel to England where she will study agricultural practices.  She explained the rationale behind her project:  “English agricultural foundations are still largely based on practices and traditions that were brought to the United States.  I want our students to compare our factory farming practices to those of a region and nation that seem more committed to small farms.”  One thing she looks most forward to is visiting Britain’s Young Farmers, the equivalent of our FFA.  “I am really hoping to set up a platform for ongoing communication between British ag students and my own.  This will dovetail perfectly into the West Prairie technology efforts.”

Galvan believes her studies will help her in the three classes she teaches:  animal science, agriculture orientation, and agricultural business.  It is the latter that seems to elicit the greatest excitement.  “Last year we made nearly $5,000 through our greenhouse sales.  We just need to keep growing and growing.”

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.