Native American Teachers

University of Wisconsin - River Falls

July 12, 1996

Native Americans at Future Teachers Session

By Jennifer Wagner DeNoma
UW-RF News Bureau

Seventeen Native American high school students participated in the third annual Future Teacher Institute at UW-River Falls June 16-28. The students are recruited primarily from Hayward High School in Hayward, Wis., and South Minneapolis High School. The majority of the students are of Anishinabe (Chippewa) heritage.

The primary goal of the program is to encourage the interest of Native American high school sophomores, juniors and seniors to enter post-secondary institutions after they graduate high school. Introducing students to teaching and other careers in education is a secondary goal of the institute.

During the first week of the institute, the students are taught the theory, method and art of teaching by preparing them to teach lessons in math and science. The students spend the second week of the institute teaching those lessons to elementary school students at the Mounds Park Native American Magnet School in St. Paul.

UW-RF College of Education & Graduate Studies Professor Jose Vega, institute director, says the students love teaching to younger children. "The students can't get enough. They actually complain that they don't get enough time in the classroom."

The students also get a taste of college life. They stay in a residence hall, visit the library, eat at the campus food service building, and rollerblade on campus sidewalks. Vega and Professor Joan Kennedy, the assistant director, also ensure there are other recreational activities available, such as swimming, dancing and rock climbing. At the end of the week, the students prepare for a pow-wow.

If the students successfully complete the program, they are rewarded with a stipend of $200, but the students don't get the money just for showing up. They are expected to attend classes and put forth a respectable amount of effort. If students cut classes, for example, their pay is docked. Students who show leadership skills, potential and an interest in contributing to the success of the program have the opportunity to participate in the program a second time as assistant teachers.

For some of the students, the experience propels them toward going to college. Next year, three graduates of previous years' institutes will enter UW-RF as college freshmen, and some are considering other campuses.

The program, funded through the Title 5 Higher Education Act, is one of 11 similar programs throughout the United States and Puerto Rico joined together through the Consortium for Minorities in Teaching Careers. The consortium was created to increase the participation of minority students in the field of education. The UW-RF program is the only consortium program for Native Americans.

To be eligible for the program, students must be of Native American heritage, have a grade point average of 2.5 or better, and express an interest in teaching as a career. During the fall and spring, the students prepare for the institute by participating in Future Teacher Club activities that explore careers in education at their local high school.

Students from the Hayward High School, Hayward Wis. area are:

Lucie Andersen; Kandace Butler; Lawrence Butler; Mike Carley; Catrina Hanlon; Daryl Miller; Mona Renteria; Tibissum Rice; Mary Lou Taylor

Student from Ashland, Wis. area: Thor Nielson

Students from South High School, Minneapolis are: Jeremy Spears; Jennifer St. George; Carol Taylor; Torrie Williams

Students from Harding High School, St. Paul are: Justin Stein; Jennifer Torres

Student from Central High School, St. Paul are: Lasha Tilsen

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