Rural districts in Missouri face special challenges as they recruit public school teachers. The local school workforce is well established and will experience significant retirement turnover trend as those teachers exit. Younger residents may be thinking about moving to larger cities for greater career and social opportunities if the local school district does not promote strong community engagement. Cassville R-IV, a rural district in southwest Missouri, has developed a homegrown effort to persuade its graduates to come back to the area to teach.
The effort begins in current classrooms. Teachers tell their students about the benefits of becoming educators in small districts, their own reasons for becoming teachers, and the opportunities that exist in the students’ home town.
Several high school students are given the opportunity to shadow teachers and gain field experience. Some Cassville teachers are also adjunct faculty members at Crowder Community College, where they encourage pre-education students to complete their education degrees at Missouri State University or Missouri Southern State University. The three- to five-year process includes substitute teaching, student-teaching placements and job interviews for teacher candidates.
“We have turned around the question of ‘Why would I become a Cassville teacher?’ to ‘Why wouldn’t you become a Cassville teacher?’” said Superintendent Richard Asbill. “One of the keys is having teachers who promote education as a career. Teaching is an honorable and important part of our society and future, and we need to build and grow those leaders now.”
Superintendent Asbill says the district works with the teaching staff to establish competitive and higher salaries than many surrounding districts, and the benefits are comparable with larger districts.
As a result of the district’s efforts, 25 percent of Cassville teachers are district alumni. About half have 11 years or more experience, ranking Cassville among the top districts in southwest Missouri in teacher experience.
“Cassville is a great example to other districts that face challenges in recruiting fully qualified teachers,” said Paul Katnik, assistant commissioner in the Office of Educator Quality. “Their approach is a complement to Missouri’s plan to provide every child in the state with equitable access to the best teachers available.”
Preparing, developing and supporting effective educators is one of the primary goals of Missouri’s Top 10 by 20 initiative, an effort to rank among the top 10 states in education performance by 2020.