LACONIA – Kimberly Dorman feels like she’s pretty lucky.
With an undergraduate degree in biology, she joined a 15-month University of New Hampshire program that allowed her to earn a master’s degree in education, a teacher certification and a job at a high school.
The program, funded by a federal grant, is intended to bring more math and science teachers to rural areas. It has been operating in the North Country, where Dorman lives, but in May will be extended to the Lakes Region, including Laconia middle and high schools.
Dorman works at Colebrook Academy, where, given her science background and her master’s degree, she teaches a “Running Start” chemistry class in which students can earn college credit while still in high school.
“It’s amazing what’s been happening here,” she said. “I love teaching. I’m having so much fun, I’d do it for free. The salary is a bonus.”
UNH’s Teacher Residency for Rural Education, one of four such programs nationwide, was funded by a $4.3 million federal Education Department grant in 2016.
Participants earn their master’s degree while embedded in rural schools and mentored by an experienced teacher. They must already have a bachelor’s degree and be seeking an initial teacher certification.
As an incentive, they receive 50 percent off in-state tuition and a $28,000 stipend. They agree to work in rural schools for three years.
Jennifer Baker, TRRE program coordinator at UNH, said the need for rural math and science teachers is acute.
Nearly 40 percent of New Hampshire’s population is considered rural. An Institute of Education Sciences study found that rural students have lower achievement outcomes and graduation rates.
“This helps promote the rural economy and draws people to stay and work in New Hampshire,” she said. “A lot of people are drawn to the lifestyle, to the community and to the rural aspects of this program.”
Other schools participating next year are Kenneth A. Brett School in Tamworth, Conway Elementary, Pittsfield elementary and middle schools, Ossipee Central School, Farmington Valley View, and Henry Wilson Memorial School in Farmington.
Dorman, 40, of Pittsburg, got her undergraduate degree in biology from Notre Dame College in Manchester.
She then moved to Bedford, Pennsylvania, and stayed there for about a decade before moving back to the North Country to help her mother after a death in the family.
She was immediately hired by a local school as a speech and language assistant, which doesn’t require a teaching certificate.
“I had the four-year degree, and this is a small town,” she said. “They were so happy to have someone with a college education.”
She worked as a speech and language assistant for nine years before her superintendent told her about the UNH program.
“The program made sense for me,” she said. “It’s a rigorous program, but the faculty are so great. I’ve never had such support. They cared about my success the whole way.”