Resiliency Guide

Support for Early Career Rural Teachers

Year 1, 2, and 3 Cheat Sheet

Tips and tricks from our YEA Council on what to focus on in the first three years of teaching:


Year One Goals

  • Survive. All the extra things can wait
  • Build relationships
  • Work life balance, get enough sleep!

Year Two Goals

  • Refine classroom management
  • Build curriculum that can be used and adapted again and again
  • Know your standards, don’t reinvent the wheel

Year Three Goals

  • Understanding your teaching style
  • Build and branch — take what you’ve done and branch into new styles
  • Reflect on what’s working and what’s not
  • Celebrate how far you’ve come!
Teacher Story
“My smallest class is 11 students, so I can focus a whole lot of one-on-one attention with them. My largest class is 28, but even with 28 it's still small enough that the ones who need one-on-one attention can get it.”
Erica Zieren, IL
Read this Story

Answers To Your Questions

Am I doing this right? How can I have confidence in what I am teaching?

“Everything I’m doing is for the kids here. I want them to know I care; that’s it. If they know that, that’s success.”
Joaly Ray, MO
Read this Teacher Story
“Just do your best! Your kids will remember how you made them feel, not the specifics of every lesson.”
Theressa Smith, WY
Read this Teacher Story

What are ways that I can meaningfully engage with parents? How to handle tough conversations with parents?

Here is a great step-by-step resources on tough conversations with parents. Don’t be afraid to ask for support from other teachers or administrators.

“If there is someone that has a problem, someone that has had some kind of a tragedy, the entire community is going to pull together so fast it will make your head spin.”
Kymberli Wregglesworth, MI
Read this Teacher Story

How can I keep student engagement up throughout the day? Throughout the year?

We all know student engagement is key to successful learning, but how can teachers make that happen? Check out this list of perspectives from veteran teachers on how to keep your classroom engaged.

“Place-based education allows for students to connect to their community through educational experiences. Commercial curriculum is not easy for educators and students to connect to, especially in rural communities.”
Becky Vordermann, ID

How can I know if I am staying at work too late? What are ways that I can balance my personal and professional life?

There is no perfect balance out there (see Year 1 recommendations on getting enough sleep!), but it is important to prioritize your own self-care and well-being in order to fully show up for your students. Check out these ideas for teachers to manage stress and fill up your cup.

“Ask yourself - can what I am doing wait until tomorrow?”
Brittany Williams, AL
Read this Teacher Story

Where can I find grants?

“Too often, students in rural communities feel as though their place doesn’t matter. This community helps create us, and we carry that identity wherever we go. Being from a small town doesn’t make you less of a person. Being from a small community can make you stronger.”
Haley Salitros Lancaster, IN
Read this Teacher Story

How can I get support and reduce isolation?

  • Get involved in the community.

“I know it’s hard, especially when you’re first starting; you’re treading water, there’s paperwork and all these other things, and it’s like, ‘Oh now I’m gonna go volunteer.' It’s probably like the literal last thing you want to do, but your life will improve if you do. If you invest in the community you end up having a more rewarding experience.”
Johnathan Imhoff, CA
Read this Teacher Story
“There were times where I had terrible imposter syndrome, like, ‘They are letting me teach these children and I don't know what I'm doing. I am three pages ahead of them in the textbook!'”
Jan Mathews, CA
Read this Teacher Story

How do I connect curriculum to real life? The community? How can I initiate collaboration?

Place-based education is the perfect place to start! Check out these incredible Place-based resources from our partners at Teton Science Schools. Inviting the community into your classroom, and getting your class out into the community is a huge step in young people becoming invested in where they live.

“The Seneca Falls community has always been supportive of our school district and always know how to come together in times of need.”
Emily James, NY
Read this Teacher Story

How do I create and manage my classroom budget? How do I find extra resources for my class?

Rural educators are often asked to do much with very little, and many times that means paying out of pocket for extra supplies to ensure their students have the very best available to them. Learning how to create and manage a classroom budget, or find extra resources, can be daunting, but here's some ideas to help get you started:

A Guide to Making and Stretching Your Classroom Budget by PraxisExam.org

DonorsChoose is another great option that functions similarly to GoFundMe. Teachers are able to create a profile and engage donors directly, and share a link to their profile on social media
Reach out to your local community foundation, community fund, family foundation, or school foundation as well. These place-based philanthropic organizations often seek to invest in a thriving future for the local community, and strong rural schools are central to that mission!
“Our community foundation is great, each year they have a classroom grant that you can apply for. Little things like that community support, and through local businesses, is important.”
Meghan Hawkins, IN
“I would highly recommend waiting until your get into your classrooms to see what exactly the school can provide. Like sometimes you think you don't have books for your classroom, but the school does and you just don't know that until you start. Also thriftstores and posting your Amazon Wishlists on Facebook! I go on the ground and sift thorugh all their kids books, and I do that for games too.”
Emma Rage, ND

Join the Conversation!

Our goal for the Resiliency Guide is to be a source of continued conversation, collaboration, and support for new rural teachers. We want to hear from you!

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What did we miss? Have an idea? Send us an email at info@ruralschoolscollaborative.org!

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