“Grow Your Own” Teacher Prep Program in Rural Wisconsin

Home/“Grow Your Own” Teacher Prep Program in Rural Wisconsin

Summit : Minneapolis, MN

School : Mauston High School

District : District of Mauston

State : Wisconsin

Level : K-12

Team Lead : Leah Lechleiter-Luke

Topics: Career Pathways, Mentoring, Pre-Service Teachers/Teacher Prep


Mauston High School Teacher Leah Lechleiter-Luke was seeing firsthand the difficulty of attracting teachers to her rural school district in Mauston, WI, and the strain the teacher shortages were putting on her district. She and her team endeavored to solve this problem by creating a high-school-to-teacher-prep program pipeline, increasing the number of youth from their community choosing to enter education programs after graduation.

Problem and Solution

Across Wisconsin, schools and districts struggle to attract high-quality teachers to their communities, particularly in the most rural districts. Leah and her team believed a high-impact strategy for addressing this issue was to start encouraging individuals much sooner in life–while still in high school–to consider teaching as a profession.

This Teach to Lead team created a “grow your own” teacher preparation program in their rural Wisconsin community. High school students are connected with education majors, invited to participate in professional development days over the summer, and taken on site visits to suburban, urban, and rural school districts. Most significantly, the team built a successful partnership with an in-state university’s teacher preparation program, developing a pathway for those who choose education as a profession to return to their community to teach after college graduation.


Leah and her team have made significant progress on their teacher preparation pipeline, including establishing a local chapter of Educators Rising in January 2016, and connecting with local organizations who may be willing to offer scholarships to students who commit to returning to the district to teach after college. The team has also partnered with ETS to establish Mauston High School as a Praxis Core testing site–minimizing yet another barrier to teacher certification.

Leah learned the importance of engaging stakeholders in all steps of the process, evidenced by the partnership between  their rural school district and a neighboring urban district, providing more opportunities for school visits for potential future educators. Their work is gaining attention and has been featured in the local paper!

Teacher Leadership Tips

Leah and her team have worked tirelessly to find a solution to the needs of educators in their community–embodying what she believes is the definition of teacher leadership. “Teacher leaders use all their skills and networks to leverage change,” she said. “They have a wealth of ideas. Teacher-leaders need the space and encouragement to make these changes.”

Interested in learning more about this project? Contact Leah Lechleiter-Luke at lluke@maustonschools.org.

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