Welcome to the heart of rural education innovation! Led by the University of West Alabama’s College of Education, the Center for Rural Education, is a beacon of educational excellence tailored specifically for rural communities. At our core, we recognize the unique challenges and opportunities that rural settings present in the realm of education. With a steadfast commitment to bridging the gap between rural learners and educational resources, we aim to empower individuals, enrich communities, and foster sustainable development.

Our center serves as a dynamic hub where educators, policymakers, community leaders, and learners converge to explore, innovate, and collaborate. Through strategic partnerships and cutting-edge research, we cultivate a supportive system that addresses the diverse needs of rural learners, equipping them with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to thrive in an ever-evolving world.

Dean of the College of Education – Dr. Jan Miller, jmiller@uwa.edu
Executive Director – Dr. Reenay Rogers, Associate Dean of the College of Education, rrogers@uwa.edu

Vision and Mission

Our vision is to revitalize rural education and create opportunities to enhance the quality of rural living. 

Our mission is to promote rural student achievement by ensuring equal access to high-quality instruction, supporting rural educators in their endeavors to improve rural school outcomes, and advocating for rural communities. 

Rural Schools Collaborative Partnership 

The Rural Schools Collaborative is committed to place-based engagement, rural philanthropy, and developing teacher-leaders.  RSC through various partnerships works to build the social capital of rural schools and their communities and to grow strong rural teacher leaders, give them a voice, and provide them with supportive networks and resources.  

Visit http://ruralschoolscollaborative.org/ for more information. 

Regional Hubs

RSC’s Regional Hub Network is made up of rural-serving organizations doing incredible boots-on-the-ground work with rural schools and communities. Rural School Collaborative “Hubs” provide a flexible and cost-effective infrastructure for the organization. UWA serves the rural south especially, the Black Belt Region.

Grad Partnerships

The Grad Partnership is a new national initiative that supports communities in efforts to use high quality student success systems to empower schools to graduate all students ready for the future. Student success systems build on what already exists in schools to promote connectedness and student success. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Johns Hopkins University’s Everyone Graduates Center has created a network of partners including Rural Schools Collaborative. Through RSC, UWA oversees the Black Belt’s program.

Learn more about the launch of the GRAD Partnership Pilot Networks here.

Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning and Leading 

The Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Leading (CETLL) serves as a centralized educational and professional development unit on the University of West Alabama’s campus for all faculty, staff, and students as well as regional educators employed in elementary through post-secondary educational settings. Housed in the Julia S. Tutwiler College of Education, the purpose of the CETLL is to provide high quality opportunities for professional learning aimed at advancing effective instructional strategies and enhancing student learning. 

Teacher Education Pathways to Certification

Traditional Undergraduate Programs

UWA offers traditional undergraduate programs in both a face-to-face format and an online format. Candidates can earn a Class B certification to teach in PK-12 classrooms in Early Childhood, Elementary, Collaborative Special Education K-6 or Collaborative Special Education 6-12, or Secondary Education.

Alternative-A Programs

Alternative- A programs are designed to provide candidates who already have a B.S. degree in some field other than education an opportunity to earn a master’s degree teacher certification at the Class A level. Alternative-A programs are offered in the online format.

Teacher Apprenticeships

UWA is a partner with the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship. The Alabama Office of Apprenticeship has received funding for a pilot program to begin Fall 2024 with incentive funding for 40 teacher apprentices. The funding is an incentive, not a grant and will be paid as reimbursements to LEAs to offset costs of wages and coursework.  The apprenticeship program pilot allows candidates to pursue degrees in Secondary Education fields or Elementary Education.

The Early Childhood Apprenticeship program is a separate apprenticeship program. The Early Childhood Apprenticeship Program offers its members the option to work in classrooms while earning a short-term certificate, associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree. Apprentices will also receive salary increases and work with a mentor.

Competency Based Education Programs

UWA will be the first higher education institution to offer competency- based educator preparation programs at the undergraduate level. Candidates will have the opportunity to earn credit for the teaching competencies that they already possess which should lead to quicker program completion.

Black Belt STEM Institute

The UWA Black Belt STEM Institute is a powerful regional center for STEM education that aims to serve the hiring needs of employers across Alabama, but especially in the Black Belt. By offering supplemental curricula focused on providing students real­ world learning experiences in the context of innovation, design, and technology students develop an awareness of STEM career opportunities while simultaneously reinforcing academic standards and skills learned in the classroom. 

Learn more about the Black Belt STEM Institute


Black Belt Teacher Corps- Teach for Alabama

The Black Belt Teacher Corps Teach for Alabama is a scholarship program created to address teacher shortages in public schools of the Black Belt region, rural areas and high-need areas within Alabama. The Black Belt Teacher Corps Teach for Alabama program enhances teacher recruitment, preparation, and retention to the field of education by offering tuition scholarships to the College of Education.

Learn more about the Black Belt Teacher Corps-Teach for Alabama

Implementing Novel STEM Practices in Rural Education (INSPIRE)

The College of Natural Science and Mathematics and the College of Education at the University of West Alabama have partnered with Bevill State Community College and Coastal Alabama Community College on Project INSPIRE (Implementing Novel STEM Practices in Rural Education). INSPIRE is a Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program funded by the National Science Foundation. This program, offered through the National Science Foundation, is a response to the critical need for K-12 teachers in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The goal of the Noyce Scholarship Program is to encourage talented STEM students and professionals to pursue teaching careers.

Learn more about Project INSPIRE

Project GROW

Through our research, outreach, and training efforts, Project GROW works to prepare teachers and school leaders to become empowered practitioners. These teachers and school leaders are an innovative catalyst of change, guided by principles to create positive change for humanity and a better life for our students across Alabama and Mississippi.

Learn more about Project Grow

Project REACh

Project REACh is a teacher residency project funded through a matching grant from the United States Department of Education Teacher Quality Partnership. The Project is only open to new Alt. A educators. Project REACh is only available to applicants currently holding a Bachelor’s Degree in a major that is NOT education and having a minimum 3.0 GPA.  

Learn more about Project REACh

Recruiting & Cultivating Teachers for Rural and Underserved Communities

The University of West Alabama’s College of Education (COE) and College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (NSM) and in collaboration with a partner two-year institution; Alabama Coastal Community College; as well as rural high needs -P12 school districts have implemented Project INSPIRE 2.0 (Implementing Novel Stem Practices In Rural Education 2.0), a Noyce Track 1: Scholarship and Stipend. Three overarching goals guide Project INSPIRE 2.0: 1) recruiting capable participants within UWA’s STEM programs to increase the number of certified science and mathematics teachers, 2) providing a supportive environment for preservice teachers with mentoring by UWA-Teach master science and math clinical faculty and STEM teachers from our P-12 partner schools and along with engagement activities addressing the needs of rural educators, and 3) implementing an induction program for INSPIRE 2.0 graduates to continue developing subject matter comprehension and pedagogical practices.

The proposed program stands to support a total of 30 scholars with two years of scholarship funding, as well as 5 STEM professionals who will receive stipends with one year of funding. INSPIRE 2.0 Scholars will receive $15,500 annually. INSPIRE 2.0 Fellows will receive $15,000.The combined total scholarship/stipend support proposed is $867,000 which will produce 35 highly qualified STEM educators. The impact on STEM education in local school districts would be tremendous and long-lasting.


UWA-Teach is a collaborative effort between the College of Education and the College of Natural Science and Mathematics that offers a compact and flexible route to teacher certification for those who want to major in a STEM field such as Biology, General Science or Mathematics and earn a teaching certificate. The teaching portion of the program offers a plan that is geared specifically to STEM teaching. For Alternative-A STEM majors, it has shortened the number of hours required for certification.

Learn more about UWA-Teach