Date of Conferral







Rachel B. Moore


At-risk youth come to school with a variety of challenges that sometimes lead to voluntary or involuntary disengagement from traditional high schools. Alternative education programs are an alternate placement for students who have disengaged from traditional high schools. Although researchers have shown that teacher and staff approaches to the overall educational experience of a student contribute to student success in alternative education programs, they have also highlighted that the lack of teacher-student relationships contributes to student disengagement. These findings may indicate that not all teachers are willing or able to connect with at-risk students. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore what educators identified as the personal factors that support their motivation, interest, and eagerness to be an effective teacher in an alternative education setting in a Northeastern U.S. city. Self-determination theory was the theoretical foundation to study the relationship between the motivation of an educator and their effectiveness. Data included semistructured interviews and guided writing assignments with 4 educators from an effective alternative education program. Seven significant themes emerged that educators identified as personal factors that support motivation, interest, and eagerness to be an effective teacher in an alternative education setting: (a) understanding, (b) defining moment, (c) perspective and outlook, (d) personal and/or psychological goal attainment, (e) intrinsic motivation, (f) teacher beyond academics, and (g) internal fortitude. Implications for social change include information to help in recruitment of effective teachers for engaging at-risk students, thereby promoting their chances for academic and nonacademic success.