Cuba Rushford Central School District teacher Scott Jordan has been named the National Rural Educator of the Year by the National Rural Education Association. Mr. Jordan was nominated and supported by your RSA as New York State’s designee for the award.
Here in New York State’s rural communities, Scott is a hero and a legend. RSA is hopeful that his selection for this award will raise the profile of this phenomenal program, allowing our rural states (that are perfectly suited to replicate this program) to bring its benefits to the thousands of students who would benefit. Said RSA Executive Director David little, “Two years ago I was approached by a BOCES board of education member from Scott’s area, who simply said that I had to see this program and that I wouldn’t believe it. He was right.”
For Scott to have accomplished such a comprehensive undertaking in a rural community was a financial, educational and political miracle. Think of it! Scott created a fully functioning fish hatchery (on school grounds, including the construction of the pond, using students interested in law to obtain the needed federal and state wetlands permits) that coordinates with our NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, making his students vital components of wildlife management. He created a deer management park (Deerasic Park!) that allows students to study rut, gestation periods, disease management, life cycles and general health monitoring.) Their research is compared with field studies they conduct and coordinate with state and federal agencies, contributing directly to our knowledge base. Their list of other science based student activities is lengthy and unparalleled.
The creation of the facilities alone is mindboggling. In addition to the deer park and hatchery, the Cuba Rushford Central School District has a wildlife instructional center and singlehandedly films two dozen episodes of a wildlife television show for the Outdoor Network. Students are incorporated into the program according to their science academic curricula, with freshmen being supervised by upper class- persons. Each aspect of the program is used to fulfil state required science courses, with students invariably receiving outstanding scores on state testing. Beyond that, students interested in television writing, production, filming and performance are all incorporated into the program.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Scott’s accomplishment (remember, he created, then sold the idea to the entire school and surrounding community that has supported the program financially) is that this program is not only active learning at its finest, but it is active learning based on the well-defined interests of these students. Wildlife and the outdoors is what they love. For many it is their intended vocation and this program alone is responsible for a great many of these rural students being selected over and above hundreds of other applicants for state and federal wildlife positions.
For students, the culmination of the program is a once in a lifetime hunt; often in an exotic area where the hunt is used as a wildlife management tool in cooperation with local authorities. Students not only raise their own funds for this trip, but raise funds within the community so that they can take needed supplies to the children and schools of the area they visit.
As a result of the program, Cuba Rushford regularly wins regional and national ecological student competitions. All of this in a small rural community. Everyone in the area supports the program in one way o r another and it is a source of tremendous pride that they have something for their students that is virtually unmatched anywhere else in the world. All of this is the brainchild and the life’s work of Scott Jordan.
According to RSA Executive Director Dave Little “I have served as a local school board president for a decade, directed governmental relations for a state school boards association for another two decades and now have directed the Rural Schools Association of New York State for nearly three years. In all of my work and all of my travels, I have never seen a program that is as inclusive for all students, as effective in its educational impact or as beloved by its students, teachers and supporting community. This is a well- deserved honor.”
Scott Jordan went to the National Rural Education Association annual conference last fall and presented on this work. Those in attendance went away shocked at the potential. Lin King, Chair of RSA’s Board of Directors said “The Rural Schools Association of New York State is honored to have such an educator within our borders and we are eager to use this honor to spread the educational possibilities of this program to rural districts throughout the nation. The educational and developmental benefits to students of the widespread use of this program in rural areas would be life altering.”