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ROOTS program aims to prepare indigenous school leaders | Nebraska today

For more than 20 years, the Indigenous Roots Teacher Education Program at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln’s College of Education and Human Sciences has prepared Native American students to become elementary and bilingual teachers working in school districts serving Native Americans of Nebraska. Now a new grant from we The Department of Education will allow the program to expand its efforts and focus on training principals and administrators of Indigenous schools.

The ROOTS The program will strengthen its partnerships with Little Priest Tribal College, the Nebraska Department of Education, and Kindergarten to Grade 12 school districts in eastern Nebraska to meet growing demand among reservation schools to place role models of Native Americans in classrooms and as school administrators.

Data from this year’s Nebraska Department of Education shows that of the state’s more than 2,100 school administrators, only 0.1% are American Indian / Alaska Native.

“Classroom representation is very important for Indigenous students,” said Nancy Engen-Wedin, who coordinated ROOTS for over two decades. “To improve representation, we need to increase the number of Native American teachers and school administrators who serve as role models, educational leaders, in Native schools and communities in Nebraska.”

Amy LaPointe is one of 54 students who graduated and certified as a teacher in the program. ROOTS program. Graduated in 2004, she is currently Director of Education for the Winnebago Tribe. Ninety percent of the 586 students at Winnebago Public School are American Indians. LaPointe is working to bring more Indigenous influence into the school, and one way to do that is to fill administrative roles with Indigenous people.

“Historically, these positions have been filled by people outside of our community,” said LaPointe. “The more our children see familiar people in these positions, the more they will feel able to say ‘If they can do it, I can do it.'”

In addition to placing Native American role models in schools, program officials believe future administrators will be able to revitalize Nebraska reserve schools by helping to renew Indigenous languages ​​and integrate local culture and history. in the program. Ultimately, ROOTS Graduates of the program will provide essential support to strengthen the academic and social outcomes of Nebraska schools serving Native American students.

Six Native American students will be selected to participate in the program’s first administrative cohort, with school districts serving Native students helping to identify potential students for the program. Students will complete courses and internship experiences and graduate after two to three years.

ROOTS is unique in that it brings the program to where students live and work in the community, directly addressing an access barrier that currently limits the number of Native American students pursuing higher education.

The course structure will mirror the Master of Education in Educational Administration program, a 36 credit hour program that meets the requirements of the Nebraska Department of Education for primary or secondary primary approval. The program combines online and face-to-face teaching and the latest communication technologies, including video conferencing, a learning management system and virtual reality.

“This project is based on over 20,000 square miles, so it is important to use dynamic course delivery on the web to meet students where they are,” said Shavonna Holman, Assistant Professor of Practice and Coordinator. of the master’s degree in education from the P-12 school administration in the Department of Educational Administration.

After graduation, students will receive assistance in finding employment in eligible school districts serving Native American students. They will also receive support during their first two years as school administrators, during which they will have the opportunity to engage in state-wide professional development and share their experiences with parties. stakeholders to elevate indigenous knowledge systems.

Nepthys Justo graduated from ROOTS in 2007. She now works as a third grade teacher in Niobrara public schools, where about 59% of the students are Native Americans.

“This program means everything to me,” Justo said. “The ability to take online classes was what initially appealed to me, but I also discovered a great support system within the program which was important as I was raising young children to the era. It really helps when you know you have people behind you who want you to be successful.

This support system has enabled ROOTS to develop a solid reputation. The program is supported by members of the indigenous community, local tribal councils, tribal community colleges, education agencies and target school districts, as well as students and graduates seeking degrees and employment. As a result, there are now more Native American teachers than ever before in Nebraska.

As a new chapter for the ROOTS begins, he hopes to build on this success to further improve the educational prospects of Nebraska Indigenous children, families, schools and communities.

For more information, contact Nancy Engen-Wedin, Indigenous Roots Program Project Director, at 402-472-3856 or [email protected]

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