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APSU's Rural Education Conference returns for third year

Dr. Cheryl Lambert

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Austin Peay State University’s Center for Rural Education will host its third virtual conference on March 21. Presentations will focus on the theme, “Cultivating Rural Initiatives: Educational Access for All Students, Innovative Teacher Education Programs and Transformative Community Partnerships.”

Dr. Cheryl Lambert, APSU Eriksson College of Education associate professor and Center for Rural Education coordinator, launched the event to connect rural administrators and teachers with resources, research and expert knowledge in the field. Tennessee is home to the fifth-largest rural school population in the nation, according to the Rural School and Community Trust, which allows for rich data and insights from those that partner with the Center for Rural Education.

“As the rural landscape continues to evolve, our awareness of access, innovation and partnerships drives the practice, research, policy and leadership of rural education,” Lambert said. “Conference participants can expect engaging presentations, networking opportunities with other leaders in the field of rural education and valuable resources for enhancing the rural experience.”

One new addition this year includes an international view on rural education, with a presentation from APSU assistant professors Dr. Andrea Lee and Dr. Maya Cunningham, along with graduate student Tai’wo Omoare. Ndidi Loretta, a postdoctoral researcher in Nigeria mentored by Lee, will also take part.

“Our presentation will focus on rural education programs and initiatives in China, Nigeria and South Korea,” Lee said. “We want to give the audience an opportunity to learn more about rural education from an international lens and discuss creative and innovative solutions to educational challenges in diverse rural settings. We also hope that our presentation can be a springboard for future conversations on what we can learn from the experiences of rural educators, administrators and students in other countries.” 

The Center for Rural Education continues to expand its services since opening in 2018 with the intention to serve rural Tennessee school districts. APSU education students now work in conjunction with the center as Rural Education Scholars. The selected students receive additional support from the Center for Rural Education, conduct research and teach in rural districts before and after graduation. Madison Wyatt, an elementary education major, and Paige Tooley, an early childhood education major, serve as scholars this semester, and they will present as part of the virtual conference. Their presentation will highlight special education considerations in rural schools.

“I began doing some research and noticed that many special education educators in rural schools are on their own, especially in the smaller rural areas where one teacher teaches all students in special education from K-12th grade,” Wyatt said. “I have had firsthand experience of how limited a special education classroom can be, especially for the students that stay in the classroom 100 percent of the time. I want to be able to make a difference and create a chain that starts linking all teachers together for the greater good of every student to help mold the minds of the future.”

The conference sessions will provide attendees with actionable steps and strategies to improve their classrooms and schools.

“These sessions will be presented by seasoned educators, leaders and community partners from several states sharing their expertise with session topics such as co-teaching approaches, rural education abroad, instructional strategies such as questioning and using Google tech tools, environmental learning and rural district leadership experiences,” Lambert said.

Conference registration is available here. There is a $25 registration fee (students can attend for free). For more information about the Center for Rural Education, visit www.apsu.edu/education/ruraled.