school rural Montana

Public Schools

in Rural Montana




rural countless superintendent
tend to run out of come out (2)
join focus (2) get them here
hope aspiring application
excited look it up square kilometers
stoke approach offering (2)
plain major (2) destination
grow up practicum grow/grew/grown
gosh zoom in think/thought/thought
main block (3) drive/drove/driven (2)
plains head out country (2)
hire selective find/found/found
end up landscape run/ran/run (3)
area (3) stuff (3) send/sent/sent
employ certified you owe it to yourself
date (3) long-run meet/met/met
league bowling come/came/come
fortune thing (2) lose/lost/lost
fiancee ghost town special education
pull out extension choose/chose/chosen
joy head back roll out the red carpet
option issue (3) pioneer (2)
gopher convince shoot/shot/shot
derby try/tried as far as the city goes
bored imagine raise your hands
pull in hard sell interior designer
joyride emergency feel/felt/felt






Eliot Crump is the school superintendent in Shelby, Montana, one of the countless small rural towns that’s run out of teachers.

Eliot Crump, Shelby Public Schools: “The kids that come out of Bozeman and Missoula and our education colleges here in Montana. They tend to focus on those larger cities.

It’s gonna be nice to get them out here to see what it’s like — and hopefully get them to join the rural teaching community.”

Two-hundred-fifty miles (400 km) away in Bozeman, thirteen aspiring teachers from Montana State University headed out for Shelby.

Aspiring Teacher, One: “Hello. Hello. Good morning. Shelby, Montana. I actually don’t know much about it. I looked it up on Google Maps. That’s the only research I did. I zoomed in and it looked pretty brown.

But it’s okay. I’m excited. It’s not there for the landscape; it’s there for the people.”

Aspiring Teacher, Two: “I love small towns. I came from a small town. And I’ve always wanted to teach in a small school. So yeah; I’m super stoked. Google Maps: ‘You are approaching your destination.’ Cool.”

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .


Eliot Crump, Shelby Public Schools: “So I’ll go first. My name is Eliot Crump. I’m the superintendent here. I used to teach social studies. I’m originally from the Seattle area.”

Jake Lyle, New Teacher: “I’m Jake Lyle. I’m originally from Plains, Montana. I graduated from there in 2016. I’m studying English teaching; I want to be an English teacher.”

Ned Bardsley, New Teacher: “Good morning. My name is Ned Bardsley. When I grow up, I want to be an art teacher.

Eliot Crump, Shelby Public Schools: “I would love for the practicum students to go through this program, enjoy being here in Shelby, and when I have an opening next year or the year after that, they’re thinking, ‘Gosh, would it be really nice to be able to go back to Shelby and be a part of that community in that school?’

I don’t know if it’s going to work, but I hope it does.”

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .


Shelby, Montana spans six square miles (15.5 km2) and is home to about seven hundred (700) families, one K through 12 school and one main street that runs only a few blocks.

It’s an hour-and-a-half from the nearest Walmart, three hours to the nearest Costco, and four hours from the nearest major airport.

Dr. Tena Versland, Education Department: “There are some districts in Montana that don’t get an applicant for a job. You know even ten years ago, they were still pulling in people getting applications, being more selective about who we can hire.

Now, it’s just find someone.”

Dr. Tena Versland researches rural education. For the last three years, she’s helped run the program that sends future teachers on a week-long date with the towns that need them the most.

Reporter: “If you’re a school and you can’t fill teacher positions, what ends up happening to your offerings, what ends up to your school, your students?”

Dr. Tena Versland: “If you can’t find teachers, young parents start to pull their kids out of school. They start sending them to neighboring schools; maybe they leave that area.

So if schools can’t find teachers, schools DIE. The community dies.”

Shelby isn’t dead. But in small towns throughout Montana, this is already an emergency: nearly half of all schools in the state now employ teachers who aren’t certified.

And almost all of those schools are in rural communities.

Eliot Crump, Shelby Public Schools: “So we met in New York; dated in New York.”
Maria Crump: “I was a city girl. I was like, ‘In Montana?’. When I told my parents I was moving to Montana, they were like, ‘Where is that? You’re moving to the mountains?’”

Journalist: “So you’ve been here for five years. You’ve seen people come and go.

Eliot Crump, Shelby Public Schools: “Yeah. When we first got here, we hired ten teachers. And I lost eight of them within a year or two. I haven’t heard of things I haven’t tried. If I’ve heard of it, I would have tried it.”

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .


One of the things Eliot has pioneered: looking for teachers outside the country, in places where thirty-five thousand dollars ($35,000) a year is a small fortune.

Four years ago, he hired his first teacher from the Philippines. He’s since hired four more.

Mary Ene Manda, Special Education Teacher: “Shelby is like — oh my god — a really small town. I didn’t even see people walking on the streets. This is kind of like a ghost town.”

Journalist: “I imagine it wasn’t like: ‘I’m going to teach in Shelby, Montana.’”
Mary Ene Manda, Special Education Teacher: “No no. It’s Shelby that chose me. Even though we don’t have shopping malls and all those stuff, we like the simplicity of Shelby.

I could sent money back to my family in the Philippines, and I could also save money. So it’s really, really helpful.”

Eliot Crump, Shelby Public Schools: “So bringing the Filipino teachers here has worked: they’ve come. They’ve wanted to stay. How it works in the long-run, I’m not sure. The end of their visa is going to be after five years: three years, and then they can get a two-year extension.

After that, they’ll be headed back to the Philippines.”

Journalist: “It doesn’t sound like a long-term solution to the problem.
Eliot Crump, Shelby Public Schools: “It doesn’t sound like a long-term solution.”

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .


That’s why Eliot and the whole town rolled out the red carpet for the MSU students.

When they weren’t in classrooms teaching, they were given the star treatment. They took Shelby’s fire trucks out for a joyride . . . they shot guns . . . and they went bowling.

The twenty-somethings want to know what happens after eight pm on a school night.

Journalist: “You don’t have a lot of options?”
Jake Lyle, Aspiring Teacher: “I don’t have many options here.”
Journalist: “I mean you could be a really big fish in a small pond.”
Jake Lyle, Aspiring Teacher: “It’s true. Maybe.”

Journalist: “So for someone in their twenties, who sort of things that you end up doing?”
Josh House, Bartender: “Well other than going out on a country road and just shooting gophers and shooting basically anything . . . As far as the community goes, we have full league derby, bowling league. That’s it. We get bored.”
Journalist: “Who here would move to this area if they were offered a job today?”
Jake, Potential Teacher: “I’d have to talk to my fiancee. I can’t totally put up my hand.”

Journalist: “Jake you’re very super-down to move here. Would you move here now, but your immediate response was, ‘If I could convince my fiancee.’”

Jake, Potential Teacher: “Ah, that would be a hard sell probably for my fiancee; she’s an interior designer, and there’s probably not many interior designer jobs around Shelby.

Sarah Persson, Aspiring Elementary Teacher: “I think the issue is the social life. I feel that school’s great; but what are you going to do outside of school?”

Aspiring Teacher 4: “Bowling league!”
Aspiring Teacher 5: “Small towns are probably not for everybody, but you owe it to yourself to give it a chance, to do more than to drive through it and experience
it for yourself.

Jake Lyle, Aspiring Teacher: “I don’t know how long I can stay. And I think that’s the problem we face. I don’t know how we can help that.”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *



First Question. A group of young people visited Shelby, Montana to admire it’s plaza, cathedrals, palaces, museums and restaurants. Is this correct or incorrect? Why did they travel to Shelby?

Second Question. In the school auditorium, did students put on a show of dance, drama and singing?

Third Q. Many teachers want to live and work in Shelby. Is this right or wrong?

Fourth. Has it changed over the years? What has happened in the past?

Fifth. Is a well functioning school minor or vital for a small town? Is Shelby unique in Montana?

Sixth. What has been a solution for Shelby’s public school? Is this temporary or long-term, permanent solution

Seventh. Is Shelby cosmopolitan and full of culture, shopping malls, cafes, bars, restaurants and nightlife, fun and excitement; or is it considered “dull” and “boring”?

Eigth. All the aspiring teachers are fully motivated, enthusiastic and eager about living and working in Shelby. They all want to live and work in Shelby. Is this entirely true, mostly true, yes-and-no, in the middle, half-and-half, partially true, largely false or totally false?


L. In my country, many young people aspire to become school teachers. Yes or no?

M. Is there a teacher shortage in cities, towns or villages?

N. Do (young) people like living and working in small towns or villages?

O. I would like to live and work in a small town (in the United States).

P. What might happen in the future?

Q. Is there a solution to teacher shortages, especially in rural schools?

Comments are closed.