Recruitment & Retention

Prospective Teachers in Rural Areas Tune In to Satellite Classes

By Joetta L. Sack — March 03, 2008 4 min read

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

School & District Management Live Event Education Week Leadership Symposium
Education Week's Premier Leadership Event for K12 School & District Leaders.
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
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
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
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education

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 Mentors Matter for New Teachers. Advice on What Works and Doesn't
Mentorships can go a long way in keeping new teachers in the field. But not all mentor-mentee relationships are created equal.
6 min read
Misti Kemmer, a 4th grade teacher at Russell Elementary School in Los Angeles, had a negative experience being mentored as a new teacher, but is now a mentor herself.
Misti Kemmer, a 4th grade teacher at Russell Elementary School in Los Angeles, had a negative experience being mentored as a new teacher, but is now a mentor herself.
Morgan Lieberman for Education Week
Recruitment & Retention Principals and Teachers Don't Always See Eye to Eye. Can Getting In Sync Reduce Turnover?
Teachers and principals are not on the same page about why teachers teach, why they quit, and how to get them to stay.
10 min read
Teacher and coach Howard Hill at the King William High School athletic track in King William, Va. on April 23, 2021.
Howard Hill, a coach and agriculture teacher at King William High School in King William, Va., considered leaving the profession early, but changed his mind because of the support he received from colleagues.
Parker Michels-Boyce for Education Week
Recruitment & Retention Jobs for New Teachers: What the Market Looks Like Right Now
New teachers are searching for jobs in a recruiting season like no other. Here are some insights on what to expect.
4 min read
recruitment, magnifying glass reviewing candidates
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Recruitment & Retention Male Teachers Share Advice for Getting More Men Into the Profession
Male teachers discuss what it’s like to be a minority in the profession, and what they think could be done to inspire more men to join their ranks.
6 min read
male teacher 032021 02
FANDSrabutan/iStock/Getty