Mundi Schmidt

Date of Award

January 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning

First Advisor

Bonni Gourneau


Retaining rural Midwestern teachers is problematic for many K-12 school districts. Through interviews with two first year teachers in rural North Dakota schools, this study considered what experiences contributed to a successful beginning teaching career in a rural school. It was thought that teacher education preparation pertaining to rural schools specifically would increase the likelihood of retention for these beginning teachers. Rural communities and schools in North Dakota are plentiful and provide the stepping-stone into the teaching profession for many beginning teachers. The choice to stay in the rural school or move into a larger school community has a significant impact. Rural school boards need tools to provide successful beginning experiences for these teachers. Additionally, teacher preparation courses can explore the development of rural field experiences that may also increase the likelihood of success for the beginning teachers. This narrative study yielded three major themes from the data collection: sense of place, sense of self, and sense of belonging. As these beginning teachers experienced various levels of expectations, influences, and relationships over the course of their first year in rural schools, they grew in their sense of self, place, and belonging. As they shared their stories, it was found that they did not have specific teacher preparation for rural schools; however, this study found that relationships with students, colleagues, and administrators were strong factors for retention. Remembering that it takes a village to raise a teacher, and if the village wants to retain teachers, it may need to change the lens through which they are prepared.