Date of Award

Fall 2019

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Douglas A. Smith


The purpose of this study was to describe factors and conditions necessary to retain non-rural public school teachers in high-turnover rural districts in South Carolina. Research on retaining non-rural teachers in rural districts is scarce. This phenomenological interview study describes rural teaching experiences from the perspective of non-rural teachers and provides insight into factors that influence the decision-making of non-rural teachers regarding continued employment in their district.

Data was gathered from interviews with 11 participants. South Carolina was selected because it is a highly rural state with a severe teacher shortage. A phenomenological design helped to answer the study‘s overarching research question: how do non-rural teachers in high-turnover rural school districts perceive and describe the conditions necessary for continued employment? The findings from this study can guide meaningful conversations regarding strategies to retain non-rural teachers in high- turnover rural areas.

A thematic analysis of the interview data revealed four themes. The first theme, Unique Perks, describes a wide variety of benefits beyond monetary that influenced participants‘ retention. The second theme, Culture and Climate, relates to the positive atmosphere of the district because of administrator leadership and behaviors. The third theme, Complacency and Comfort describes a level of satisfaction teachers felt, which allowed them to remain in the district without seriously considering any other options. The fourth theme, Commitment to Community, details experiences that established a deep level of dedication from the teacher to the community they served. The findings of this study are significant for states similar to the study site and for those that wish to better understand how to retain non-rural teachers in rural school districts.