Recruitment & Retention

Prospective Teachers in Rural Areas Tune In to Satellite Classes

By Joetta L. Sack — March 03, 2008 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The rural, slow-paced lifestyle of the Eastern Shore of Virginia--a jagged peninsula set off by the Chesapeake Bay--helps distinguish the region from the more populous parts of the state.

But like other areas of Virginia, the two school districts that occupy this impoverished stretch of shoreland also need special education teachers.

State officials believe they have found a high-tech remedy to ease the problem for the Eastern Shore’s isolated communities, where fishing and farming are the main industries.

The state education department last spring sought to remedy theirs and other districts’ shortages by awarding a two-year, $1.2 million grant to Old Dominion University. In turn, the public university provides distance-learning classes for teachers and other professionals to earn their certification in special education.

Distance learning overcomes a large hurdle for ambitious residents of the state’s many rural areas--finding accessible classes. The Eastern Shore, for instance, has only one higher education institution, a two-year community college here in Melfa. From this tiny community, at the midway point of the peninsula’s only thoroughfare, teachers would have to drive more than three hours, and pay $20 in tolls, to cross the bay to the Old Dominion campus, located in Norfolk.

About This Series

For the past several years, Old Dominion has been promoting distance learning through its so-called Teletechnet program, which transmits classes by satellite to other sites. The university worked with school districts to devise a series of nine special education courses required for state certification that could be broadcast by satellite television to the state’s 31 community colleges.

On-Site Assistance

Most of the classes broadcast to the outlying community colleges allow students to interact with their on-screen professors by radio, although a few have received two-way video systems. Each classroom also has a site director, employed by Old Dominion, to oversee coursework and exams. And districts must provide a more experienced teacher to mentor each student and oversee evaluations.

“We wanted something that was a proven program,” said Sandra Aldrich, an education specialist with the state department. Old Dominion was chosen to receive the grant partly because “it does not differentiate from its on-campus program.”

Virginia in recent years has seen an oversupply of elementary teachers but a shortage in nearly all special education specialties, according to Ms. Aldrich.

The availability of the distance-learning classes at Eastern Shore Community College, along with the financial assistance, has enabled some aspiring teachers to achieve what otherwise would have been unlikely. They pay $100 of the $550 tuition for each class, with the grant picking up the remaining amount.

S. Dawn Goldstine, the superintendent of the 2,400-student Northampton County district on the Eastern Shore, said the program has greatly helped the district recruit and train much-needed special education teachers already living in the communities.

“It’s difficult for us, at best, to attract quality teachers to an isolated location like this,” she said. In addition to the region’s lifestyle and lack of amenities, district salaries fall below the state average, making it harder to compete for new graduates, she added.

‘Exact Same Courses’

Elaine M. Johnson, a 28-year-old native of the Eastern Shore, started as a substitute teacher, but she was later hired as an aide to special education students in Northampton County. She and her mother, Bonnie M. Trower, 53, a former real estate agent and also a longtime resident, began taking Teletechnet classes to earn their teaching certificates. Now, the pair are enrolled in the special education grant program to earn their master’s degrees.

“Our students are taking the exact same courses, same exams, all the same requirements, but are simply using technology to allow them to do so,” said Old Dominion President James Koch.

Although having television cameras and computer monitors in their classrooms took some getting used to, several Old Dominion’s special education professors said they now have a different view of teaching and learning. “The technology has helped us step out of the box,” said Jane Hager, an associate dean for special education.

A version of this article appeared in the March 24, 1999 edition of Education Week as Prospective Teachers in Rural Areas Tune In to Satellite Classes

Events

English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Recruitment & Retention Schools Are in Desperate Need of Tutors. But Qualified Ones Are Hard to Find
Schools are evaluating a variety of tutoring approaches to address "unfinished learning," but the supply of qualified tutors is low.
5 min read
illustration of tutor and student
Getty
Recruitment & Retention From Our Research Center How Bad Are School Staffing Shortages? What We Learned by Asking Administrators
More than two-thirds of administrators say they're telling existing staff to take on additional responsibilities.
2 min read
In this April 17, 2020, file photo dormant school buses are secured at a facility in Tempe, Ariz. Planning is underway to prepare for reopening Arizona's public schools in the next school year and the state's top education official says the resulting decisions that will be made and the guidance provided to local districts won't come too soon. Some districts start their school years as early as mid-July, with most others following in August, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman told KJZZ.
More than two-thirds of school district leaders and principals say they're having trouble hiring enough bus drivers this school year, according to a new EdWeek Research Center survey on staffing shortages.
Matt York/AP
Recruitment & Retention Letter to the Editor The Pandemic Isn’t the Only Reason For School Staffing Shortages
States must dig deeper than superficial-level explanations if they're serious about staffing shortages, writes an educator.
1 min read
Recruitment & Retention 'No Respect and No Support': K-12 Workers Explain Why Schools Struggle With Staffing
Bus drivers, custodians, and other school employees share stories of low pay, meager benefits, minimal respect, and dangerous conditions.
5 min read
A "Bus Drivers Wanted" sign is shown Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, in Sandy, Utah. A shortage of bus drivers is complicating the start of a new school year already facing a surge in COVID-19 cases and conflicts over whether masks should be required in school buildings.
A "Bus Drivers Wanted" sign is shown Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, in Sandy, Utah. A shortage of bus drivers is complicating the start of a new school year already facing a surge in COVID-19 cases and conflicts over whether masks should be required in school buildings.
Rick Bowmer/AP