Since the summer of 2020, when the pandemic first led the Northwest Rural Innovation and Student Engagement (NW RISE) Network to convene virtually, this community of rural educators and stakeholders has been eager to meet face to face. Finally, on March 17–18, NW RISE will bring together rural educators and state agency stakeholders from across the Pacific Northwest for a two-day convening in Coeur d'Alene.
Dedicated to building connections and increasing capacity in isolated rural school districts with fewer than 450 students, NW RISE has for 12 years been a second home to rural teacher leaders and administrators, state education agency stakeholders, and others working in or with very small schools in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, and Washington. As Cynthia Johnson put it two summers ago, NW RISE’s twice-annual convenings are the only professional events she attends “where everyone gets” her situation as a rural educator.
During three virtual convenings over the last year and a half, NW RISE participants shared teaching ideas and supported one another. Meetings centered on how best to meet the social and emotional needs of students and adults in rural schools during this trying period, including how to stay positive and focused on learning. As a result, the NW RISE steering committee decided that some of the benefits of virtual convenings should be expanded.
To that end, NW RISE is launching a new Rural Meet-Up series. Designed specifically for rural educators, these monthly one-hour virtual gatherings will give rural educators a chance to learn, reflect, and share ideas in small groups focused on specific interest areas. In each meet-up, participants will receive specific resources and ideas they can use immediately in their classrooms.
“These short sessions will be open to all rural educators, not just those who work in the super-small schools that meet the criteria for membership in NW RISE,” explains Rosie Santana, the Region 17 staff member who leads the network.
The Rural Meet-Up format was designed to be especially targeted and engaging. It includes:
- 20-minute breakout presentations by experts on specific topics, with discussion among interested rural educators
- 10 minutes to crowdsource discussion topics for open-space breakout discussions
- 20-minute job-alike and open-space breakouts, including continued time with presenters
Region 17 staff members polled rural educators to identify these and other topics for future monthly Rural Meet-Up sessions, which are slated to take place on the second Tuesday of each month. The NW RISE steering committee hopes these monthly meetings will grow an even stronger web of support for all rural educators, no matter where they work.
NW RISE members learn about critical issues from rural education experts, share knowledge, and collaborate in job-alike groups on projects designed to increase student engagement and achievement.