College welcomes Johnson as inaugural Dail Distinguished Professor in Rural Education

Headshot of Dr. Jerry Johnson

Dr. Jerry Johnson

The College of Education is pleased to welcome Dr. Jerry Johnson to East Carolina University as the inaugural Phoebe Moore Dail Distinguished Professor in Rural Education.

“I had been aware of ECU’s regional stewardship and the work of the Rural Education Institute for a while, but it wasn’t until I was brought to campus as an external evaluator in spring 2019 that I was able to really appreciate the quality of the work and the impact it’s having on rural schools and communities in eastern North Carolina,” Johnson said. “I came away from that fully convinced that the REI has the potential to be a national (and international) model for leveraging teaching, scholarship, and service to sustain and revitalize a region (and impressed by the individuals with whom I worked both inside and outside the COE). I knew then that I would like to contribute to realizing that potential.”

Prior to ECU, Dr. Johnson served as Chair and Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and the Lydia E. Skeen Endowed Chair in Education at Kansas State University. He is the author of more than 60 publications in rural education, educational policy, and school-based leadership. Johnson has also testified before state legislatures, presented research briefings on Capitol Hill, and contributed to the development of state and federal legislation and regulations regarding the funding and operation of public schools and the preparation of teachers and leaders.

“My interest in rural education is grounded in my commitments to equity and justice. Rural schools and communities possess unique strengths and face unique challenges, and they are at their best when they leverage their strengths to overcome their challenges,” Johnson said. “Drive by suburban and urban default models, the way we organize and operate schooling often works against rural interests, undermining strengths and compounding challenges. In my work, I try to disclose and call attention to policies and practices that make things worse and to put forward alternative ones that can make things better – for all, but most especially for rural children, families, and communities who have historically been ill-served. That means engaging with and unpacking issues of class and race and place, and so the work I do is often focused at the intersection of sociology and education.”

His research has been supported by external funding from the US Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences and Office of English Language Acquisition, state departments of education, private foundations, and local school districts. His professional awards include the 2017 Stanley A. Brzezinski Memorial Rural Education Award from the National Rural Education Association, and current leadership roles include serving as an Advisory Board Member for the UCF Center for Community Schools and as Associate Editor of the Journal of Research in Rural Education. A former high school English teacher and high school principal, Johnson also served from 2003-2007 as policy research director for the Rural School and Community Trust, a national non-profit organization addressing the crucial relationship between good schools and thriving communities.

Dr. Johnson is the third distinguished professor in the College of Education. Dr. Matthew Militello is the Wells Fargo Distinguished Professor in Educational Leadership and Dr. Len Annetta is the Taft Distinguished Professor of Science Education.

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