UWA Launches Black Belt Teacher Corps With First 10 Members

In an effort to promote quality education among rural schools, the University of West Alabama has recently taken steps toward incentivizing young teachers to start their careers in areas of the state that need it most.

Earlier this month, UWA launched its Black Belt Teacher Corps initiative—a program in which College of Education students dedicate themselves upon graduation to working as teachers in Black Belt schools for no less than three years in exchange for scholarships to pay for their own education. On Feb. 7, UWA President Dr. Ken Tucker and Dean of Education Dr. Jan Miller announced the program and recognized its first 10 participants.

The Black Belt Teacher Corps is a movement by the nationwide Rural Schools Collaborative to address and solve issues plaguing rural schools—one of those being, where their new teachers come from. With UWA’s program, the university has decided that it would rear and train its own teachers to contribute their talents to rural institutions. In addition to funding, program participants receive special training that equips them with the knowledge to deal with school and community issues unique to rural areas.

Juniors and seniors selected to participate in the program will receive $5,000 per year, plus $1,000 to execute a place-based education project.

UWA’s inaugural cohort for the Black Belt Teacher Corps includes:

  • Austin Bishop, Piedmont, Ala., Special Education
  • Macy Bush, Gilbertown, Ala., Elementary Education
  • Levi Dorsett, Odenville, Ala., Physical Education P-12
  • Paige Gandy, Coatopa, Ala., Elementary Education
  • Devante Giles, York, Ala., Special Education
  • Amanda Kirkman, Northport, Ala., Elementary Education
  • Allie Marques, Livingston, Ala., Special Education
  • Haley Richardson, Reform, Ala., Elementary Education
  • Haley Sizemore, Birmingham, Ala, Elementary Education
  • Caitlin Zirlott, Coden, Ala., Elementary Education

The Black Belt Teacher Corps is modeled after the Ozarks Teacher Corps in Missouri, a program of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks’ Rural Schools Partnership. The program has been recognized by entities like The Washington Post, NPR and Education Week.

UWA Online Continuing Education congratulates the inaugural members of the Black Belt Teacher Corps! To read more about the Black Belt Teacher Corps and the Rural Schools Collaborative, check out our previous blog, “Strengthening Educational Bonds With the Rural Schools Collaborative.”

To learn more about UWA Online Continuing Education, click here!


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