Thomas College is the first in Maine to offer Rural Scholar Residency Program

WATERVILLE, MAINE, March 2018 — More than half of public schools in Maine are rural, according to the Rural School and Community Trust report. These schools are unique – often at the center of the communities, come with their own culture, and often are poverty stricken.

Thomas College wants to prepare its education students to teach in every type of community – particularly communities that struggle with rural poverty as they afflict so much of our state. Thomas College’s Center for Innovation in Education has partnered with GEAR UP Maine to send students on a week-long residency to rural school in Maine to gain teaching experience, learn from the community, and become integrated in this culture. This new program, the Rural Scholars Residency Program, is a Thomas College initiative part of the Center for Innovation in Education.

The first preservice teachers in the Rural Scholars Residency Program, Cassidy French and Jordan Turner, were chosen through a rigorous and competitive selection process. They will spend a week in March at Ft. Fairfield Middle and High School, a GEAR UP school.

“What makes this program unique is that the preservice teachers who are part of this residency get housed with a teacher in the community,” said Thomas College assistant professor of education Katie Rybakova. “It will allow these preservice teachers to be truly active in the community, not simply the school.”

This program was first created in part to answer the question: “how we do we teach 7-12 grade students who live in rural poverty?”

“We began this residency program with two major goals: to encourage preservice teachers to engage with rural schools and consider these schools and communities when applying for jobs and have preservice teachers participate in field experiences in these schools and be a part of the communities in a way that might even encourage students from these populations to attend college at some point in their lives,” said Rybakova. “We envision this program growing. We are excited to see what our preservice teachers can learn from these experienced teachers working in a rural community.”

“GEAR UP works with high percentages of low income families to increase the number of students who go on to some sort of post-secondary education. Having great teachers is the best strategy for achieving this,” said Proficiency-Based Learning Specialist at GEAR UP Maine Mike Muir. “So, we are excited to have the opportunity to partner with Thomas College’s Center for Innovation to connect high quality preservice teachers with GEAR UP schools.”

Thomas College offers Bachelor’s programs in Early Childhood Management, Early Childhood Education, Elementary Education, Secondary Education, and Master’s programs in Education, Accelerated Education, Education Leadership and Literacy Education. The Rural Scholars Residency Program is open to undergraduates and graduates interested in 7-12th grade residencies.

About Thomas College: Founded in 1894, Thomas College offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in programs ranging from business, entrepreneurship, and technology, to education, criminal justice, and psychology. Its Guaranteed Job Program, the first of its kind in the nation, is built on student’s academic, career, and leadership preparation. Thomas is also home to the Harold Alfond Institute for Business Innovation and the Center for Innovation in Education. Money Magazine recently ranked Thomas 23rd in the Country for adding the most value to their degrees, and data reported by the New York Times ranks Thomas in the top 15 percent of all college and universities in the U.S. for upward mobility of its graduates. For more information, visit or contact MacKenzie Riley at or 207-859-1313.

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