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Grow Your Own: Building an Outreach Teacher Education Program in Rural Oregon

Male teacher with young students

By: Holly Hill, Director of Human Resources, Douglas Educational Services District; Dr. Mindie Dieu, Assistant Professor, Eugene Campus Director, Pacific University; Dr. Karren Timmermans, Professor, Douglas County Program Coordinator, Pacific University

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the national teacher shortage disproportionately affects rural school districts and “[t]he more rural the school the more challenging recruiting and retaining a qualified teacher becomes” (Latterman & Steffes, 2017, n.p). Solutions toward addressing the rural district teacher shortage include proposals such as designing pipeline programs through which candidates enter a teacher education track in high school or districts increase base salaries for teachers (Favero, 2017). The lack of access to higher education and a wealthy tax base to fund an increase in teacher salaries may prevent districts from gaining an edge on much needed qualified teaching staff.

To support teacher demands in rural communities, colleges and universities may need to develop outreach programs in which the faculty go to the community to build a rural outreach, grow your own program rather than wait for the community to come to them in either a campus-based or online setting. Partnerships between Educational Service Areas and Educator Preparation Programs (EPP) can together make a collective impact (Kania & Kramer, 2011) on a rural community’s ability to recruit and retain highly-qualified teachers. In this article, the Douglas County Program Coordinator and the Eugene Campus Director describe the way in which we, in partnership with the Director of Human Resources at the Douglas County Educational Service District (DESD), were able to effectively support a rural county with a common agenda to increase the county’s school districts’ base of highly qualified teachers.

Addressing a Teacher Shortage     

Founded in 1849 as an orphanage for children who lost their parents on the Oregon trail, Pacific University has had a long commitment to social justice and action. Pacific University’s School of Teaching and Learning supports licensing programs for pre-service and in-service teachers from three campuses. The main campus is in Forest Grove with two satellite campuses in Woodburn and Eugene. Forest Grove in Washington County is situated in the northwestern part of the state near Portland. Woodburn, a rural community in Marion County, is in the central part of the state near Salem, and Eugene, located in Lane County, is also in the western central part of the state along the I-5 corridor in the Willamette Valley. Our goal was to build a partnership with the Douglas County Educational Service District (DESD) in Roseburg. Roseburg, located in Douglas County, is south of Eugene in the Umpqua Valley.


Oregon Counties Map

Figure 1: Oregon Counties Map

National and state-wide shifts in public education, culture, and technology necessitate changes within the College of Education if faculty want to remain a viable and active part of EPPs in the state. The College, and more specifically the School of Learning and Teaching, needs to proactively identify and address the ways in which these national and statewide shifts impact teacher education and take the initiative to seek out opportunities to benefit and support communities invested in public education.

A primary shift in public education is teacher shortage, particularly in rural communities. According to the Oregon Department of Education, the state issued 832 licenses for conditional assignment or emergency teaching licenses during the 2015-2016 school year (Lovett, 2016). Teachers who are not considered to be highly qualified taught 2,188 kindergarten through high school classes. Nationwide, enrollment in teacher education programs has declined, driving up the demand for classroom teachers. “Between 2009 and 2014, the most recent years of data available, teacher education enrollments dropped from 691,000 to 451,000, a 35% reduction. This amounts to a decrease of almost 240,000 professionals on their way to the classroom in the year 2014, as compared to 2009” (Sutcher, Darling-Hammond & Carver-Thomas, 2016, n.p.). To be highly qualified, the teacher must possess a bachelor’s degree, an unrestricted teaching license, and demonstrate subject area knowledge (U.S. Department of Education, 2009). In rural areas, a shortage of even one Special Education (SPED) teacher can have dire consequences as districts can fall out of compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004.

With Oregon’s average salaries for teachers with a Bachelor’s Degree starting at $36,000 (Roth, 2018), teacher layoffs during the 2008 recession, high graduation debt, and a reduction in employees’ insurance and retirement benefits (Ward, 2018) the demand for highly-qualified licensed teachers has increased. In Oregon, the number of first-time licensed teachers exceeds the number of first-year teachers hired, thus eliminating the concern for a statewide teacher crisis. However, localized shortages exist as indicated by the number of provisional licenses the state issued (Lovett, 2016). Douglas County, a rural county in south-central Oregon, experienced the greatest shortage for highly qualified teachers in the areas of secondary science, with moderate shortages in secondary English and World Languages. Many rural counties in Oregon struggle to hire and retain highly qualified teachers each year, particularly in the areas of math, science, SPED, and English-as-a-Second Language (Lovett, 2016).

To manage, or even to prevent, a teacher shortage, rural districts such as the Bend-La Pine School District in central Oregon have set up teacher mentoring programs and provided performance-based salary increases (Lewin, 2016) while other districts such as Coos County are building high school Teacher Cadet Programs in partnership with community colleges (Ward, 2018). School districts are also working with their public K-12 school administrators and Oregon’s licensing board, Teacher Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC), to issue provisional, temporary teaching licenses.

The state of Oregon uses information based on the number of issued provisional licenses and current job postings to determine areas of teacher shortage. Although Oregon’s TSPC’s aggregated data do not indicate a statewide teacher shortage, the TSPC issued 832 provisional licenses during the 2015-2016 school year. This is an increase of 237% from the previous year (Lovett, 2016). “This count underestimates shortages, as indicated by the report, which emphasized that the number of provisional licenses serves as only a proxy measure of teacher shortages because it includes neither out-of-field teachers nor unfilled positions at the beginning of the school year” (Learning Policy Institute, n.d.).

Special Education and Physical Education (P.E.) were the top two provisional teacher licenses TSPC issued, with Health, Advanced Math, and Spanish rounding out the top five (Lovett, 2016). The demand for P.E. teachers is due in large part to the 2007 state mandate requiring a specified number of minutes for physical education each week (Oregon Department of Education, n.d.). According to the Oregon Department of Education (n.d.), Douglas County’s greatest teacher shortage is in secondary science. However, secondary science teacher candidates did not enroll in the Masters of Arts in Teaching (MAT) Douglas County cohort.

To be proactive and address the state teacher shortage, the faculty on the Eugene campus, in partnership with the Director of Human Resources at the DESD, developed a rural outreach, grow your own program to offer a quality, locally-based teacher preparation opportunity in rural communities.  The focus of this initiative was to ensure access to high quality, well-prepared teachers who are already an integral part of the community. As Linda Darling-Hammond writes, “Being in and of the community is so important, and it is so much of what Grow Your Own is about. The community in this framework become a resource, not an obstacle. All children are our children. They are not ‘those’ children or ‘other people’s’ children” (Darling-Hammond, 2011, p. 176).

In this spirit of partnership, faculty from the Eugene campus entered the community in Roseburg and surrounding districts in Douglas County to identify community partners and offer teacher education service using the principles of change management and best practice to effect a positive change within the community. Gina Abudi (2017), in her book Implementing Positive Organizational Change: A Strategic Project Management Approach, discusses two reasons why change happens within an organization: forced change and proactive change. Forced change is external to the organization and occurs when outside regulations or even shifts within the target market lead to internal changes. Proactive change occurs from within the organization when “an organization wants to capitalize on something to improve the business, such as upcoming changes in the industry or marketplace” (pp. 4-5).

County Description

Roseburg, 72 miles south of Eugene, has a population of just over 22,000 (U.S. Census Bureau, n.d.), the largest city in Douglas County. Douglas County is described as a rural non-metro county (U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, 2017) with a population of 107,667 (U.S. Census Bureau, n.d.).

Map of Douglas County ESD Service Area

Figure 2: Douglas County ESD Service Area

Eighty-six percent of the population has a high-school diploma or higher, with 15.5% of the population with bachelor’s degrees or higher (U.S. Census Bureau, n.d.). Douglas County, with the main city of Roseburg, is a rural county in south-central Oregon, surrounded by mountain ranges and trees. The timber industry continues the main source of income across the county, as approximately 25% of the population are employed by the forest products industry. Farming, ranching, and wineries contribute greatly to the economy, while a large non-profit hospital and Veterans’ Affairs Health Care center supports the labor force (Wikipedia, n.d.).

Building a Rural-Outreach, Grow-Your-Own Program

In rural Oregon the demand for teachers who not only will stay in the area, but also continue to teach throughout their careers has increased. The Director of Human Resource for the DESD in Roseburg decided to act on what many considered a pending county-wide teacher crisis. The Director of Human Resource identified teacher shortages primarily at the elementary school level and in SPED, as indicated by the high number of teachers working with emergency teaching licenses. According to the TSPC, “An Emergency Teaching License is issued to individuals who have demonstrated adequate qualifications to receive a teaching license on an emergency basis, but who have not completed all requirements for a regular teaching license (TSPC, n.d.).”

The grow-your-own model of teacher education is a way to support local school districts and principals in teacher recruitment and retention. The Director of Human Resource of the DESD approached the Dean of the College of Education at Pacific University with a unique proposal: To create two cohorts, one for the Masters of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program and one for the MAT/Special Education (MAT/SPED) program, with the option for add-on endorsements such as Reading Specialist and English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) onsite in Roseburg. Douglas County, with 13 school districts, has numerous teachers who are on emergency licenses and educational assistants and people throughout the county’s communities who would like to be classroom teachers, but have limited access to quality face-to-face teacher education programs. Pacific University as a small liberal arts university, has the agility and ability to invest in and support the rural public schools in Roseburg and its surrounding districts. In March of 2017, with the Eugene Campus Director, the School of Learning and Teaching faculty, and the Admissions Counselor, the Dean and the Director of Human Resources from the DESD began work on an outreach model to host the MAT and MAT/SPED programs on site in the Douglas County community.

The Dean, representing Pacific University, and the Superintendent of the DESD agreed upon a simple, one-year Memorandum of Understanding. The Human Resources department at the DESD would assist in information sessions and recruitment events, while school principals and district superintendents, and faculty from the School of Learning and Teaching would join together to interview program applicants as a part of the admissions process. If either the MAT or MAT/SPED cohorts grew beyond 15, the teacher candidates would receive a reduction in tuition. The Dean and Eugene Campus Director agreed to offer as many classes in an on-site, face-to-face format as possible rather than online or in hybrid formats. These two factors – the price reduction and the ability to provide face-to-face instruction – led to a robust student applicant pool for the MAT and MAT/SPED programs.

The initial meetings to develop the Douglas County-based program began immediately in March with recruitment and information sessions fast on its heels. Not only were the courses to be offered face-to-face at the DESD in Roseburg, but also within 12-months from January through December. To ensure the programs’ success, the Admissions Counselor and Douglas County Program Coordinator on the Eugene Campus met to develop a timeline for implementation. To ensure the Douglas County teacher candidates were able to begin classes on the January 8th spring term start date, they developed a timeline by working backward from the January term start date to deadline requirements for registration and financial aid. By starting with the fixed deadlines, the Human Resources Director, faculty program coordinator, and admissions counselor could align dates and deadlines for recruitment, applications for financial aid and admissions, dates for informational meetings, interviewing and hiring of local adjunct course instructors, scheduling of classes, adjunct and student orientation, and student advising and instructor support (see Appendix I for the full rollout timeline).

By May, the Douglas County Program Coordinator in partnership with the Director of Human Resources at the DESD, was able to identify logistics such as classroom space and class schedule option at the DESD, by working around the DESD’s already regularly scheduled events. As onsite logistics were developing, the University’s administrators, including the Dean, worked toward gaining permission to implement the off-campus, rural outreach program in Douglas County from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) and TSPC.

In addition to the focus on teacher candidate success was the work to recruit, interview, hire, and support adjunct course instructors. Selecting qualified, experienced instructors was paramount to the program’s success. The Director of Human Resources met with school principals and district superintendents to announce the School of Learning and Teaching’s call for Douglas County-based adjunct course instructors. Douglas County Program Coordinator provided a list of MAT and SPED/MAT program courses with course descriptions for the Director of Human Resources to distribute to those who were interested in University teaching. The Director of Human Resources forwarded resumés from those interested in teaching and any questions about the courses and program to the Douglas County Program Coordinator. The Eugene Campus Director, Douglas County Program Coordinator, and the Director of Human Resources interviewed potential adjunct instructors. During the interviews, the interview team shared more information about the courses and programs to determine who was the best qualified to lead the courses. This process helped to support the applicants’ strengths and expertise while allowing the interview team to determine which courses could be taught face-to-face in Douglas County and which would need campus-based faculty support. During an adjunct instructor orientation, the Douglas County Program Coordinator provided course syllabi and an orientation of online tools (e.g., email, course management system) and resources (e.g., library). The adjunct instructors who led the face-to-face onsite classes were not only leaders in the school community, but also extremely knowledgeable in their field. The adjunct instructors included district superintendents with Doctorate degrees and university teaching experience, school principals, and 30-year teacher veterans, including one who graduated from our MAT program on the Eugene campus years before.

It was important for the personnel from the School of Learning and Teaching (i.e., Douglas County Program Coordinator, Eugene Campus Director, and Admissions Counselor) and those embedded in the Douglas County community to hold the classes, and information and orientation sessions at the DESD so the work was seen as a county-wide effort and not just for a single school district within the county, thus also building a base in the community. Additionally, the Admissions Counselor added a “Douglas County” option to the program application to allow these prospective candidates to be disaggregated from our Eugene campus-based applicants. Once admitted, the candidates completed a survey to help the Douglas County Program Coordinator identify their current licensing status, preferred licensing endorsements, and preferred sites for practicum and student teaching placements.

During June and July, the plan was to interview and hire adjunct course instructors, but “best laid plans [especially in the summer] often go awry” (Burns, 1785). Interviews for adjunct course instructors finished in early August, with an orientation for the newly-hired instructors in mid-August. Our intention of having the course instructors set well in advance of the program’s start date was to provide them with ample time to review and revise already developed course syllabi. The Douglas County Program Coordinator worked with adjunct course instructors to ensure they were able to teach the courses scheduled in the evenings and on Saturdays. The face-to-face, on-site classes were scheduled around already existing events at the DESD. Additionally, the School of Learning and Teaching offered a summer workshop for teachers and substitute teachers in Douglas County. The purpose of the workshop was to provide professional development for teachers and promote the MAT and MAT/SPED programs starting in January. The day-long workshop focused primarily on classroom management strategies, an area of expertise for one of the newly-hired adjunct course instructors.

The Eugene-based MAT program is currently a three-semester program over 16 months. In consultation with the Director of Human Resources, the Douglas County Program Coordinator scheduled the Douglas County MAT program over 12 months and three semesters and the MAT/SPED program would extend to 18 months over four semesters, both with a January start date. Typically, teacher education programs start with foundational courses such as Educational Psychology and Critical Perspective, with pedagogical methods courses in the second term and student teaching in the third term. With a January start date and pedagogy courses often demanding access to classrooms for school-based assignments (e.g., observations and lesson implementation), the Douglas County Program Coordinator needed to rethink the MAT program’s course sequence. Would candidates have theoretical and foundational background knowledge to support pedagogical content? While it was expected they would, the Douglas County Program Coordinator still needed to let adjunct course instructors know they may have to provide additional theoretical and foundational knowledge to support the candidates’ learning and understanding of the pedagogical application.

The fall months continued with significant support for prospective candidates, with information sessions, application deadlines, and candidate interviews. To expedite the interview process and expand the partnership with the DESD, we set a six-hour time block at the DESD during which faculty from the University partnered with administrators from across Douglas County to interview candidates. Oftentimes, the candidates were already well-acquainted with people from the district, giving the interviews a conversational, relaxed tone. Including administrators from throughout Douglas County in the candidate interview process eased the way when it was necessary to request clinical practicum and student teacher placements for the candidates.  The opportunity to work with district administrators during the interview process increased not only the School of Learning and Teaching’s networking potential but also directly supported the teacher candidates’ access to schools.

By November, the Douglas County Program Coordinator had established program cohorts: MAT/SPED, MAT single subjects (secondary), and MAT multiple subjects (elementary). The Student Services Manager ensured teacher candidates were registered for their spring classes and submitted fingerprinting documentation required by TSPC. To best support the teacher candidates, Douglas County Program Coordinator, and Eugene Campus Director divided program advising between MAT and MAT/SPED. The MAT cohort of 18 teacher candidates, included elementary education (multiple subjects), secondary education (single subjects), and one candidate adding a Reading Specialist endorsement. The MAT/SPED cohort included 12 SPED teacher candidates and one SPED Endorsement-only teacher candidate. In December, a student orientation was held with course instructors at the DESD. The program orientation not only helped the candidates get to know the University contacts, including financial aid and technology support but also allayed any anxieties of starting a new program. At this orientation, it became immensely evident how small and tight-knit the communities are in Douglas County. At the student orientation, one of the new adjunct course instructors approached a secondary music teacher candidate. The teacher candidate recognized the instructor and said, “I know you. You were my music teacher in elementary school.” The instructor said, “Yes, I know you, too. Your dad hired me for my first music teaching job.” The course instructors invested extraordinary amounts of time and energy into the teacher candidates’ success throughout the program, many of whom they knew as community members and educational assistants.

Considering the program, candidates had an academically intense year, particularly those candidates who were adding the elementary multiple subjects’ endorsement. Additionally, most of the teacher candidates were working full-time as the teacher of record on an emergency license, educational assistant, or in a field outside of education. Nonetheless, only three of the 30 candidates withdrew from the program, a 1% attrition rate. One moved out of state, another decided teaching was not for him and entered a physical therapy program, and the third had a family crisis which prevented her from giving her full attention to the program. Candidates who were on emergency teaching licenses and already teaching their content completed their student teaching requirements in their own classrooms. As they may be the only teacher in a particular subject area at their school, the Douglas County Program Coordinator who also set up the MAT practicum and student teaching experiences, had to match them with mentors from other schools in the district. In one case, the Douglas County Program Coordinator had to match a teacher candidate with a mentor at a school in a neighboring county, as this school was in closer proximity to any other school offering a similar program in Douglas County. Other teacher candidates followed the typical student teaching experience as a guest in the classroom. The greatest challenge arose with those candidates who were the teacher of record and the only teacher of their subject area in the school (and district at times) who wanted to add multiple endorsements (e.g., P.E. and Health). Fortunately, school principals and district personnel worked closely with the Douglas County Program Coordinator and their teacher candidates to ensure success.

As the program moved forward the need to further support communication between the school districts and faculty at the University became clear. To build this bridge, a Douglas County Program Liaison was hired who worked closely with the school districts to facilitate the localized needs of the program, including student teaching placements for the MAT/SPED teacher candidates. The Douglas County Program Liaison lived in the community, worked for the DESD, and had established connections and partnerships with the area schools. The Douglas County Program Liaison facilitated logistic aspects, such as reserving classroom space and participating in orientation and informational events and acted as the main communicator and “go-to” person for teacher candidates and adjunct faculty based in Douglas County. The Douglas County Program Liaison supported students and faculty, engaged in immediate troubleshooting, and maintained open communication with the Douglas County Program Coordinator from the Eugene campus.

Internal Aspects for Program Implementation

Internal to Pacific University, there were many considerations. The Eugene Campus Director planned for program assessment and reporting for accreditation purposes and how to track teacher candidates through the university system. The Dean of the College of Education and the Eugene Campus Director approached the University Implementation Committee, which brings together the Registrar’s Office, Business Office, Library Services, University Information Services, Facilities, the Office of Student Success, the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, and other parties who might be interested in or affected by off-campus program offerings. Inviting and collaborating with others in the University’s systems provided clarity and constant communications, helping to ease barriers and anticipate any issues which may impede progress. In Implementing Positive Organizational Change, Abudi (2017) discusses the need for change leaders to engage in “consistent and sufficient communications” (p. 46) assisting with readiness and preparing for change. Constant communication across the University would help with change management for both processes and people and in “evaluating and maintaining change” (p. 46). We proceeded with confidence as the internal structures within the University supported our work to build a rural outreach, grow-your-own program in rural Oregon.

The practical considerations for implementation were myriad. The Douglas County Program Coordinator and Eugene Campus Director identified aspects of infrastructure and student services from the Eugene and Forest Grove campuses necessary for the success of the program. At the onset, issues related to access and geographical distance between the campuses and the community the School of Learning and Teaching wanted to serve became apparent. Points of access instrumental to the success of any university program were related mainly to student services, including the library, technology support, the Business Office, the Financial Aid Office, and the Registrar’s Office. The University services are based in and primarily supported from the main campus in Forest Grove, with ancillary support from the Eugene campus. Despite location differences, members of the University’s student support services met with our Douglas County teacher candidates in person or through an online meeting platform to interact in real time with the teacher candidates and adjunct course instructors. The library staff fully supported the teacher candidates’ and faculty’s access to materials, particularly during their capstone Teacher Inquiry Projects, through digital access to books and articles or sending materials via an overnight delivery service to their homes.

Program Implications

What factors contributed to a successful program? The Memorandum of Understanding, stated face-to-face courses would be offered onsite at the DESD to the extent possible. Those classes which were not going to be entirely face-to-face were set up in a hybrid format or as fully online. Due to specific academic coursework of the MAT and MAT/SPED programs, the course enrollment, and the ability to find well-qualified course instructors, the School of Learning and Teaching offered four classes online: Foundational Methods of ESOL Instruction, Linguistics for ESOL Teachers, Instructional Technology, and P.E. and Health Methods. Teacher candidates who chose to add Reading Specialist or ESOL endorsement to their initial teaching license had a higher number of online-only classes, as these programs were already offered 100% online to accommodate candidates from multiple campuses and around the state.

As educators know, the teacher has the greatest impact on student success (Reed, 2013). With this in mind, the Eugene Campus Director attributes the low attrition rate of just 1% to the quality of the course instructors, the participation and investment in the program from the University and the faculty, and the enthusiastic support from both the Director of Human Resources and our on-site Douglas County Liaison from the DESD. Without a doubt the people involved in designing the program, its execution, and supporting the teacher candidates every step of the way were instrumental in both the program’s success and the candidates’ success.

Future Planning

To replicate a rural outreach, grow-your-own program, we suggest the following.

  • Create a flexible quality program in response to community needs, within a 12-month course schedule.
  • Employ positive organizational change management, especially with regards to the infrastructure needs of the University. Early and constant communication among all parties is the key.
  • A strong district liaison with local connections to schools and ties in the community is an important part of recruitment and retention for both adjunct course instructors and teacher candidates. The DESD partners were extremely effective at building community and providing University faculty with access to local resources.
  • Recruit qualified local adjunct course instructors to teach face-to-face classes and supervise practicum and student teaching placements.
  • Involve full-time, campus-based faculty members to help create connections for assistance with course syllabi revision, course delivery, and problem-solving. Their programmatic knowledge and guidance are invaluable for all.
  • Involve principals and superintendents in interviews for teacher candidates. Including all invested groups allows everyone to understand their role in supporting the teacher candidates, the School of Learning and Teaching’s processes and expectations, builds a positive rapport in advance of field placements, and expands the District-University Partnership.

Finally, we appreciated the opportunity to support rural communities as they increase the number of highly-qualified, licensed teachers in the local workforce. We are guided in this work by the Pacific University College of Education mission statement

“…to be a community of thoughtful and responsive leaders who inspire professionals to value and serve individuals within their unique personal, family, and community context; construct and disseminate new understandings through teaching and scholarship; advance critical evaluation of theory and practice; advocate for justice through outreach and service in reciprocal partnership with underserved communities; and cultivate learning in and through our inclusive and diverse communities” (Pacific University, n.d.)

We believe the children of the state of Oregon deserve the best teachers we can possibly offer, and in advancing our MAT and MAT/SPED programs to support a rural outreach, grow-your-own model we are fulfilling our mission in service to our communities and working toward building Collective Impact (Kania & Kramer, 2011) toward reducing the teacher shortage in rural Oregon.

Appendix 1: Grow Your Own: Appendix I Rollout Timeline


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