Superintendents Struggle to Lure Teachers to Rural Colorado


SALIDA, Colo. — Retired English teacher Annette Barber sat reminiscing on a bench outside her rural southeastern Colorado hometown's first schoolhouse, a red-brick building out of a storybook, erected in Crowley a century ago.

Barber and her husband Jerry, who grew up in a nearby town, graduated from the University of Northern Colorado's teaching program. They worked in communities across Colorado before returning to Crowley. Barber recalled small-district superintendents were eager to hire them both.

"They thought, 'If we get a couple, they'll stay,'" says Barber, who taught her last years before retirement in Crowley, a district with fewer than 500 students.

Some 30 years after the Barbers were first hired, superintendents still struggle to lure teachers to remote, isolated towns on Colorado's eastern plains, western ranchlands or in mountain hamlets, says Harvey Rude, founder of the Colorado Center for Rural Education. Programs at the center, which is focused on finding ways to address the teacher shortages, include distributing state-funded stipends of $2,800 each to college students who train in rural districts and commit to teaching in such districts for at least three years.

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