Navajo Nation Head Start teachers receive master's degrees

Arizona State University graduates Percilla Shortman, Rolanda White, and Samantha Johnson meet Ira A. Fulton, husband to Mary Lou Fulton, the college’s namesake. Photo from Navajo Nation Head Start

Three Head Start teachers from the Navajo Nation have earned master's degrees.

Samantha Johnson, Rolanda White and Percilla Shortman graduated from the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University on May 15. They earned a master's in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in early childhood education.

“They have worked very hard through the whole restructuring [of Navajo Head Start] going on three years. Despite all the challenges, they have maintained the momentum. They are certainly role models for the rest of our staff,” said Sharon Singer, the assistant superintendent of the Department of Dine Education. “We look forward to having them [back] in the classrooms -- so that all they have learned will be brought back to the people.”

Newly-inaugurated President Russell Begaye also attended the commencement ceremony. He praised Navajo Head Start and ASU for working together to further the education of teachers on the reservation.

“Thank you for having that insight and foresight in getting this relationship established,” Begaye said. “We really appreciate ASU because this is innovative. You got to be willing to get out into the community.”

The program will continue to expand, Singer said. She promised 16 bachelor’s degree graduates next year.

“We have a momentum going and I am excited to see where Head Start will take us,” observed Shortman. “Opportunities like this don’t happen to a lot of people. I consider myself blessed. What an opportunity?! An education that I can use and share with others.”

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