Preparing pre-service teachers for rural schools has been a challenge in the field of education for more than a century, and issues specific to the rural teacher workforce remain a persistent and salient challenge in the United States and globally. This task is complex and multifaceted, conflated with a wide range of contextual variations in salaries, community amenities, geographic or professional distances, technology access, health disparities, and poverty rates. Additionally, institutions of higher education have wavered in their interest in and commitment to rural teacher education, though there is a growing awareness of the need to attend to the experiences of students in rural communities and the educators who teach them. The literature and research on rural teacher preparation has typically been organized around the three challenges of preparation (post-secondary education), recruitment (youth aspirations to teach, would-be career changers interested in teaching, and division-level efforts to staff schools with effective teachers), and retention (providing pre-service and new teachers with learning experiences and support that increase the likelihood of remaining in the profession in rural schools).
Literature on rural teacher preparation and evidence related to “preparation, recruitment, and retention” can be repositioned to offer new insights focused on solutions. Three focus areas—Curriculum, Context, and Conveyance—serve to answer the question: What makes a teacher preparation program rural? Curriculum serves as a core component for preparing rural teachers. A rural curriculum for a teacher education program includes introducing students to content and experiences, including field experiences, that have been designed to support their professional and personal success in rural schools and communities. Context is understanding the strengths and assets of the rural places, communities, and cultures in which pre-service teachers are preparing to live, learn, and teach. Context allows us to consider the unique environments in which rural teachers live and work. Conveyance is the means by which potential teachers have access to teacher preparation programs, that is, how programs are delivered and structured to provide access to potential teachers in rural communities (online, in person, alternative and traditional programs, etc.). A focus on Curriculum, Context, and Conveyance allows school leaders and education researchers to resist deficit ideologies and to consider how rural communities are asset-rich environments, ultimately increasing resources that prepare teachers for, and build from the strengths of, rural communities.