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USD Faculty Member Publishes Research on Challenges of Recruiting and Retaining Teachers in Rural Areas

Susan Surtin, Ed.D., researches challenges of recruiting and retaining teachers in rural areas USD School of Education Associate Professor Susan Curtin, Ed.D., researches challenges of recruiting and retaining teachers in rural areas.

VERMILLION, S.D. – Susan Curtin, Ed.D., an associate professor with the University of South Dakota School of Education, published research outlining the challenges of recruiting and retaining teachers in rural areas.

The study, published in “Voices of Reform: Educational Research to Inform and Reform,” addresses a gap in literature regarding administrators’ perceptions of factors impacting teacher recruitment and retention in rural areas.

Study participants—including elementary principals, secondary principals, superintendents and a human resources director—stated that rural and remote rural districts struggle with a smaller pool of candidates, candidates’ preference to work near family members, a need for specific content expertise (e.g., science, math, special education, career/technical education) and lower salaries and reduced benefits, including less access to housing, goods, transportation and social experiences.

“Many of our district leaders in South Dakota share the same challenges and concerns related to recruitment and retention of teachers,” Curtin said. “Sharing perspectives of rural leaders provides an opportunity to give voice to those concerns and bring to light strategies that have been successful for similar districts.”

Curtin offers creative recommendations for administrators in rural areas to improve recruitment and retention. Options include grow-your-own programs, early identification of needs and targeted recruiting, connection to wider networks of professionals, mentoring programs and incentives. Curtin encourages administrators to consider recruiting and actively seeking applicants as opposed to waiting for applications.

Furthermore, Curtin suggests that administrators anticipate and prepare for their future needs not only by seeking applicants, but also by developing and articulating a recruitment and retention plan.

“Rural and remote rural districts note a shift in recruitment. Whereas previously the districts interviewed candidates, now candidates are interviewing districts,” Curtin said. “Districts may need to respond by considering a strength-based approach. They can articulate what their district might offer a candidate and present an appealing package. Recent graduates are not necessarily seeking a 30-year position but might consider a five-year commitment if the right kind of support was offered.”


USD's School of Education is transformative in preparing students both inside and outside the classroom. Its research- and practitioner-based programs train future educators, counselors, leaders, fitness and sport-related professionals for successful careers. The school focuses on a comprehensive learning experience, lifelong learning and developing professionals grounded in best practice. The school’s divisions include counseling and psychology, curriculum and instruction, educational leadership, kinesiology and sport management, and teacher residency and education.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News