|The following story was written and reported by David Michaud, Native Sun News Correspondent. All content © Native
Oglala Sioux Tribe endorses Teach for America|
By David Michaud
Native Sun News Correspondent
PINE RIDGE — In an unprecedented move the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council passed a resolution announcing formal support for the Teach For America organization.
Teach For America (TFA) places high-performing college graduates in schools to help students. They have been placing teachers on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations since 2004.
The Oglala Sioux Tribe, according to the resolution passed, stated that part of the reason for supporting TFA was due to “research studies conducted by Mathematical Policy Research, Inc. and the Urban Institute have demonstrated that Teach For America Corps members have a positive impact on student achievement maintained and supported through continuous professional training and development.”
“We are proud to support Teach For America as an ally in the critical effort to help Native students realize their full potential through excellent educational opportunities,” said Oglala Sioux Councilman Kevin Yellow Bird-Steel. “The students in Pine Ridge classrooms right now will be the future tribal, state, and national leaders.”
With the positive impacts that TFA has had on Native American students the Tribal Council wanted to come out and formally endorse them. This support will have positive impacts, especially on parents who may be skeptical of TFA.
“This shows we are not coming in with an outside agenda,” said Jim Curran, Executive Director of South Dakota Teach For America. “We want to align our work to the vision that the tribe and its leaders have for their kids on the Reservation.”
Another hope for the resolution is that it opens the door for more Native Americans to join the TFA Core Members.
“We are trying to increase the number of core members who identify as Native American,” said Curran. “Something like this can show that we are a good option for people who are from native communities and want to have an impact on native kids. We hope this will get more Natives to apply for TFA coming out of college.”
During the last school year more than 500 TFA teachers taught in Native communities in South Dakota, Hawaii, New Mexico and Oklahoma. That number is only growing, as this year in South Dakota TFA is moving into the Standing Rock and Lower Brule Reservations.
Unfortunately, not many of these teachers come from Native backgrounds. Because of that there is always a fear that the students may not take to the teachers right away.
“Our teachers normally come from out of local communities and out-of-state even,” said Curran. “So we hope this resolution helps to alleviate some fears that people may have about what our teachers are trying to do.”
To get the support from the Oglala Sioux Tribe, the TFA members did not just point to the studies that show their positive impacts. They traveled into the community to speak with the tribe and show them what they want.
“We have been talking with different members on the council and letting them know who we are and finding out what local leaders want from us,” said Curran. “We went in front of the education committee in May and have been building relationships with the tribe for a while now and showing them what we want to accomplish with their students.”
With those conversations with tribal council members TFA has learned more about what is expected of them from tribal members. They believe that will help them while teaching Native students, along with having the community support them more.
“Education in Native schools is about the community. Teach For America is incredibly grateful for this support from the Oglala Sioux Tribal Government,” said Robert Cook, managing director of the Native Alliance Initiative and enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. “This partnership will allow our corps members and alumni to have a more meaningful impact with students. It is a symbol of the alliance needed to help all students reach their full potential.”
So, if you are a Native American on the Reservation do not be surprised to see Teach For America coming into your community and working in your schools.
(Contact David Michaud at email@example.com)
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