Suzanne Feldman realizes she's an anomaly: a soon-to-be college graduate who wants to return to the languid rhythms of rural life rather than flee.
The aspiring high school math teacher is a member of the inaugural class of the Ozarks Teacher Corps, a group of southwest Missouri teachers in training who receive $4,000 annual scholarships in exchange for a three-year commitment to work in rural school districts after graduation.
Having grown up in a town with fewer than 3,000 residents, a place where your homeroom instructor is just as likely to be sitting in the same church pew come Sunday, the 21-year-old newlywed knows that small-town teachers are not just educators but also neighbors and role models.
"The community's expectations are higher," said Feldman, a senior at Drury University in Springfield, Mo. "When it's a small community, everybody knows everybody — and expects a whole lot more."