In rural regions across the country, there is a strong demand for committed, effective school leaders. The Rural School Leadership Academy is open to all educators passionate about rural education and driven toward school leadership roles.
About the Rural School Leadership Academy
Develop the knowledge and skills necessary for school leadership roles while building a powerful network of aspiring school leaders in rural communities.
The Rural School Leadership Academy is a yearlong fellowship for two streams of aspiring and current school leaders:
- Stream 1: Classroom teachers who are beginning to explore school leadership roles.
- Stream 2: Mid-level school-based leaders preparing for school principal roles.
The key program components include:
- Four cycles of virtual professional development focused on building skills in school leadership competencies.
- One-on-one leadership coaching twice-monthly throughout the fellowship.
- Participant-driven application of learning to impact participant’s school community.
All expenses are funded thanks to an Education Innovation Research Grant from the U.S. Department of Education and private funders.
2021-2022 Learning Cycles
We design our learning cycles to be accessible across all time zones and participant availability. We ask that all participants are available for the cycle kick-off date, and from there, participants select the session schedule that works best for them. For more about what to expect in a learning cycle—see below.
- Summer 2021: Monday, July 19 Kick-Off, Cycle ends August 8, 2021
- Fall 2021: Saturday, October 16 Kick-Off, Cycle ends November 6, 2021
- Winter 2022: Saturday, January 22 Kick-Off, Cycle ends February 11, 2022
- Spring 2022: Saturday, March 26 Kick-Off, Cycle ends April 10, 2022
Eligibility & Requirements
We are looking for applicants who are passionate about rural education and are driven toward school leadership roles.
This program is now open to all rural educators. You do not need to be a Teach For America alum to apply.
- Must be working in a rural K-12 school setting for the 2021-22 school year.
- Must be able to fully attend all four virtual learning cycles.
Stream 1 Participants:
- Should be teaching in a rural school.
- Should be interested in pursuing an adult-facing leadership role in a rural K-12 school setting in the next 1-3 years.
Stream 2 Participants:
- Must be serving in a role where the majority of your time is focused on instructional leadership of adults (likely a mid-level leadership role in a school such as assistant principal or dean.)
- Should have clear aspirations toward principalship in a rural community in the next 1-4 years.
- Should anticipate being in your role for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years.
Final Deadline - February 21, 2021
Please contact RSLA@teachforamerica.org if you have any questions.
What our participants are saying about RSLA
“This has been the most useful training in my career.”
“I wish all my Professional Developments were like this. I built great relationships with my cohort through the experience.”
“Excellent energy and atmosphere. Did not seem virtual at all!”
“Everyone is so interesting, with such diverse perspectives and experiences. I feel like I learn so much just by listening to others and learning what they know. I truly appreciate the opportunity to be in virtual community with everyone in this group.”
“I love the momentum and the build up of the sessions. I love how they are evolving as we move through the program.”
“I've learned strategies that I will be implementing on the daily basis.”
Frequently Asked Questions
Please contact RSLA@teachforamerica.org if you have any questions that are not answered below.
Rural locations are generally characterized by geographic isolation and small populations.
RSLA participants have come from all over the country, including from towns that are 2+ hours away from an airport and/or large grocery store.
If you have specific questions or concerns about your situation, please email RSLA@teachforamerica.org.
Each learning cycle is made up of a series of 4-6 sessions that build leadership across our prioritized competencies:
- Leading for Equity
- Facilitating Learning (coaching and developing teachers)
- Building Culture
- Decision Making and Communication
- Developing a Vision for your School and Leadership
- Contextualizing and Honoring Place
Approximately two weeks before each cycle, we will share the guide for the cycle, including learning focus areas, session timing options, and an overview of each session. Participants will register for the schedule that works best for them. The learning cycle will kick off with an all cohort session experience on the kick-off date, and from there, participants attend their selected sessions. A typical learning cycle will have 1-2 sessions per week for three weeks. Sessions are 2-4 hours in length, depending on the content and learning environment needed to build community.
In addition to the learning cycles, participants will work with a leadership coach twice monthly. Your coach will meet with you virtually and engage in coaching aligned to your individual interests and learning priorities. Our coaches use a cyclical approach, supporting you to identify a practice to implement and work to reflect on the impact of those practices.
In between cycles, we bring together the entire RSLA community (including our 250 alumni in communities across the country) for “Keeping it Rural” sessions where we engage with school and community leaders in topics particularly pertinent to the rural experience.
Participants also gather in smaller communities, called advisory, to reflect on their experiences and learning while deepening their relationships with their peers.
In response to the COVID19 pandemic, we moved RSLA to an entirely virtual model in 2020-2021. Our participants’ feedback has been incredibly strong regarding how valuable this experience is to grow and exercise their leadership in a virtual setting. We are continually monitoring public health conditions and if it becomes safe for participants to travel and gather in person during the fellowship year, we will adjust the virtual learning cycles to include live weekend gatherings.
Yes. Nominations and referrals are welcome and an important way we identify candidates for the RSLA. To nominate someone, please email RSLA@teachforamerica.org. You are encouraged to nominate multiple rural leaders. Your nomination(s) will remain anonymous.
Yes. We have seen that when teams or duos participate together in RSLA, they are able to bring even more of the learning back to their school community. Without the burden of travel and missing school to participate, we strongly encourage participants to consider who in their school community they could team up with to participate. Some examples of strong teams: an assistant principal and a lead teacher, multiple assistant principals from the same district/network, multiple teachers from the same school, etc. There is a place on the application to indicate if you have a team member applying with you and/or to nominate someone to join your team.
We will accept a group of 55-65 participants divided relatively evenly between the Stream 1 and Stream 2 programs.
Yes. We offer a full program of professional development that builds on sessions and learning outcomes throughout the fellowship. Each learning cycle will offer sessions multiple times so that all participants are able to access each unique session. Because one of our priorities for development is building a strong and connected community amongst RSLA participants, it is important that participants commit to fully engaging in each learning cycle. If or when emergencies that impact attendance do happen, we work together to make accommodations for our participants.
No. Participation in the RSLA will not lead to any certification or degrees. RSLA is designed to be a leadership development program that builds your capacity for success in school leadership roles. You will receive exposure to some of the best practices in rural school leadership, visit rural schools and build a network with highly esteemed content experts, colleagues, and facilitators from across the country.