Education | Opinion

Jamie Gua: Inspiring success in our Native American students





Jamie Gua, a member of the Colville Confederated Tribes who teaches on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, touts the benefits of Teach for America:
Native children experience some of the highest levels of poverty in our country greatly impacting their academic and life options. According to the Bureau of Indian Education Schools, the high school graduation rate amongst Native children is 46 percent, and just 11 percent obtain a college degree. It was while I was working toward my master’s degree in Native American Studies that I realized what role I could play to improve the educational outcomes for Native students. A fellow University of Oklahoma classmate, and Teach For America alum, insisted that my place was in the classroom after observing me teach undergraduates.

Teach For America’s mission to build the movement to eliminate educational inequity and, specifically, its commitment to advocating for Native education equity through the Native Alliance Initiative resonated with me. Through this initiative, Teach For America works to deepen its partnership with Native communities. Currently, over 400 corps members are teaching more than 15,000 children from Native backgrounds.

When I entered the Crazy Horse School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, I knew I would provide a better educational experience for my students than I had received. My teachers looked at my Native culture as a deficit, but I would use my students’ as an asset. Recently, I taught a lesson that required my students to examine the works of Zora Neale Hurston. I was able to leverage the oral storytelling and listening skills of our culture as I guided them through critical thinking exercises related to the literature. By reading passages aloud and allowing my students to listen to one another and engage in relevant discussion throughout the lesson, my students were able to deliver dynamite presentations. I understand how they learn and what obstacles they may encounter along the way, allowing me to exercise their strengths and quell their weaknesses.

Get the Story:
Jamie Gua: Inspiring Native Children (NBC News 3/18)