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Rural-urban student teacher exchange awarded grant

By Tom Lotshaw
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A $5,000 grant will help boost an educator preparation exchange program between Western Carolina University and North Carolina A&T State University.

Engagement Scholarship Consortium, a nonprofit education organization, announced the grant this July. The funding will support a review meant to strengthen the Transformative Rural Urban Exchange the two universities launched about 20 years ago.

TRUE allows eight to 10 education students from WCU, a rural and predominantly white university, to spend time at NC A&T, a historically Black university in urban Greensboro, and an equal number of students from NC A&T to spend time at WCU.

During the visits, students participate in campus activities and spend time in local schools, interacting professionally with people from different ethnic, racial, language and socioeconomic backgrounds.

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The TRUE program has been funded by the deans of the colleges of education at both UNC System universities since the early 2000s.

With the ESC grant, a multidisciplinary TRUE faculty team will interview program alumni who are now in-service teachers in North Carolina, as well as their school administrators, to learn more about their knowledge, implementation and support of culturally responsive teaching methods.

The goal is to identify the professional, personal and community assets that TRUE alumni leverage to support culturally responsive teaching methods and then plan and implement a guided, virtual professional learning community for alumni. The review will also help inform future iterations of TRUE to enhance educator preparation and produce graduates who are well-prepared to teach diverse children across the state.

“We would like to thank the Engagement Scholarship Consortium for its support of this project,” said Adrienne Stuckey, an associate professor of education at WCU and a member of the TRUE faculty team.

“We’ve been wanting to follow up with TRUE alumni for years, because we know ultimately the long-term impact of this program is what matters. We’re excited to now have the chance to do that,” Stuckey said. “With a rapidly diversifying school age population in the U.S. that is now over 50% students of color, it’s essential that teachers develop skills in working with children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.”

TRUE plans to return to a fully in-person format in spring 2023 after two years of pandemic challenges with hybrid and virtual formats.

Other TRUE faculty members involved in the project include NC A&T professors Kellee D. Watkins, Kimberly Bunch-Crump and Karlin Burks and WCU professors Pam Buskey and Carrie Rogers.

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