Thursday, August 25, 2011

An Indian Educator on Indian Education - Looking to the Future

Today the many communities around the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation are voting for community representatives to Tribal Council and members to the St. Francis Indian School Board.  This is an important event because the candidates who are elected (to Tribal Council) are the first people to serve an elected 3-year-term under the new Constitution.

I was voter #120 in my community.  I took time in making my selections because it matters who become the decision makers for myself, my family, my children, and my future takoja (grandchildren).  As I voted, I felt astutely aware that as an educator, I am hoping for the best future for my community.

In a few days, the first day of school will begin for the Todd County School District in South Dakota.  I am again teaching, after being out of the classroom for over 5 years.  I am excited to teach at the high school in Mission, SD and have two children in the District (grades 10 and kindergarten).

It is a fresh year, a fresh start, and a fresh outlook that I bring to my position as Lakota Studies teacher.  I can't wait to meet my students, and see some returning faces from when I did some literacy coaching 4 years ago in another building.  Many fifth graders that I worked with before, will be 9th grade students this year.

Lakota teachers are few and far between in the upper grades (6-12).  This is a difficult job, to be role models and leaders in our communities.  Our children on the Rosebud know us as real people, and it is a constant balance to be the community member we are; and the District employees that fund our livelihoods and families.  There are many elementary education teachers, due in part, to the strength of Sinte Gleska University on our reservation.  However, there is still a dire need for our Tribal members to assume these leadership roles as teachers in our middle and high schools.

It is not easy to be a Native American teacher, but those of us who have taken this career on are vital members of our communities because of the connections we create between school and home.  It is hard to assume the status equal to our peers, for at times we do not feel we receive the support necessary to our personal and professional success.  However, it is my hope to inspire a few Native students to become teachers each year.

It is with a good heart, a strong mind, and a caring heart that I begin this year.  Wopila Tunkasila!

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