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An effective state-level professional development system designed for Nebraska 21stCentury Community Learning Centers (21stCCLC) program leaders should consider both the unique characteristics of the program leaders themselves, as well as the rural communities where the afterschool programs are implemented. Some of these differentiating characteristics include background of the program leader and their years of experience, the size of the community, availability of staff and frequency of staff turnover, availability of potential community partners, and the quality of the relationship with the school administration and teachers where the afterschool program is implemented. Ultimately, the state-level system must be responsive to the needs of all rural program leaders, allowing for personally meaningful, ongoing, and relevant learning experiences.
As the person responsible to design and implement this state-level professional development system of support, it was important to gather relevant information from those who would be impacted by the potential improvements to the existing system. Two sources of data were collected and analyzed utilizing a narrative inquiry approach in order to answer the primary research question addressed in this study: What are the professional development needs of rural afterschool educators and how can they be addressed in a statewide system of support? The data sources included information from four rural project directors who participated in a series of interviews, as well as an analysis of my own journal entries describing my ongoing work as the Coordinator of Professional Development for the Nebraska 21stCCLC program. As a result of this study, a plan was articulated that will address issues uncovered through analysis of data collected. The plan will be implemented over time with ongoing input and feedback from rural program leaders and as part of the existing 21stCCLC continuous improvement process.
Advisor: Guy Trainin