Education Doctorate

Number of Pages


Year Approved


First Advisor

Soria, Krista

Second Reader

Erica Hering, Tracy Reimer


The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to understand the lived experience of rural teachers in Southwest Minnesota during the spring 2020 transition to distance learning and to unearth any connection between the transition experience and rural teacher retention. The rapid and dramatic transition to distance learning for public schools was a result of the COVID19 pandemic. There was a marked difference in how individual school districts responded to Governor Walz’s mandates regarding school closure. Rural schools faced unique challenges not encountered by metro districts, specifically related to location. Twelve rural Southwest Minnesota career teachers were interviewed using a semi-formal interview protocol. The interviews were conducted virtually. The interview transcripts were member checked, coded, and analyzed for themes. Observation notes supported validity through triangulation of data and reflexivity to reduce researcher bias promoting credibility. Data collection and data analysis were iterative processes. The interviewees identified frustrations, successes, and areas of personal and professional growth as a result of the spring 2020 experience. Collectively, access to resources, internet connectivity, isolation, working parents, student engagement, and social emotional health were obstacles having rural roots. The teachers missed daily in-person contact with their students and viewed distance learning as an inferior instructional delivery model for the majority of their students. Several of the interviewees expressed concerns regarding their own well-being as a result of transitional expectations. In spite of the challenges, the 12 rural teachers professed a continued commitment to rural education for various reasons. Ties to the land and strong relationships were two powerful reasons for their collective commitment to small rural schools.

Degree Name

Education Doctorate

Document Type

Doctoral dissertation