Department of education launches Rural Student Teaching Scholarship

“This scholarship will allow more students the opportunity to complete their student teaching internship in a rural school … This is another important way that MSU can support the vitality and ongoing success of Montana’s rural schools and communities,” Head of MSU’s department of education Jane Downey said when referring to the new Rural Student Teaching Scholarship.

A major component of an aspiring teacher’s education is time spent student teaching. Student teaching is an unpaid internship during which students gain valuable experience while teaching at schools under their college’s supervision. During the past five years, MSU has placed 902 student teachers in positions around the state, 11 percent of these positions have been in Montana’s rural communities. MSU’s department of education aims to increase that percentage thanks to two gifts totaling $150,000.

Comprised of $25,000 from alumni Janyce and David Hoyt and $125,000 from alumni Diane and Cory Pulfrey, the donations will be used to fund the Rural Student Teaching Scholarship.

The scholarships came as a result of an increasing need to meet the potentially difficult costs of rural student teaching. “Last year, we started sharing this need with our MSU supporters, and we were delighted in the fall when two donors offered significant support to help us address this need,” Downey said.

Downey explained that the scholarships will help mitigate the costs of relocation and finding housing in rural communities that are often more costly than typical MSU students can manage. She explained that the extra funds will allow the student teacher to be fully engaged in their work without having to take part-time jobs to cover expenses, or incurring significant debt.

Potential new teachers to the schools strengthens MSU’s connection with these communities. “If the fit is right, they may be able to start their first teaching position right there,” she said.

The total number of Rural Student Teaching Scholarships awarded by the department of education will ultimately depend on the number of applicants and gifts provided by donors, Downey said. However, she is excited for the future of the scholarship and believes that financial support will continue to grow. “My vision for the future is that there will be more donors who follow the example of the Pulfreys and the Hoyts and come forward to support MSU’s efforts to prepare the next generation of outstanding teachers for Montana’s future,” Downey said.

Because of donations, several scholarships were awarded in January for use this semester. Illustrating the scholarship’s early successes, Downey pointed out current student teachers Chateau Christensen and Stevy Rood, positioned in Whitehall and in Highwood respectively, have each been able to concentrate on their students thanks to the scholarship.

Downey said that very few other education programs offer scholarships like this (one being the University of Nebraska at Kearney). She explained that the scholarships are beneficial for rural communities as well as the student teachers, “Many of the students in our Teacher Education Program grew up in Montana’s small and rural communities … Their goal is to return to teach in rural communities and continue to make a difference for students, in the same way their teachers made a difference for them.”

“People everywhere, and especially those of us who grew up on ranches and in rural communities, know the difference that a skilled, caring teacher can make in the lives of K-12 students,” Downey said.