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Dina Horwedel, Director of Public Education, American Indian College Fund
303-426-8900, dhorwedel@collegefund.org

Colleen R. Billiot, Public Education Coordinator, American Indian College Fund
720-214-2569, cbilliot@collegefund.org

American Indian College Fund Program Supports Native Teacher Education and Employment

Tribal Colleges and Universities Using Awards to Increase Native Educators

Denver, Colo.—March 28, 2023—Less than one percent of all teachers are Native American in the United States, yet studies show that students achieve more when teachers are from their own communities and cultures. The American Indian College Fund launched its $2.25 million Wounspekiya Unspewicakiyapi Native Teacher Education Program to support Native teacher recruitment, development, and retention with the goal of increasing the number of Native students pursuing a teaching career. Wounspekiya Unspewicakiyapi, which means teaching teachers, is funded by Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies. The program goal is to increase the number of Native students pursuing teaching careers and ensure the continuity and sustainability of Indigenous knowledge and lifeways in Native communities.

The College Fund is working with the following tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) to identify and remove obstacles to accessing and completing teacher education programs.

Diné College received a grant to support its project Òltà noosèèl (growing institution). The project goal is to build teacher education capacity by strengthening and unifying the teacher pathway through a two-year planning and implementation process. The grant program team will approach this work by keeping the big picture in mind to foster Navajo leadership through teaching, education, and language proficiency.

Oglala Lakota College (OLC) received a grant to support its Wounspekiya Wolakolkiciyapi teacher education project. OLC’s project goal is to increase student enrollment, Praxis Preparation bootcamp completion, and the number of certified Indigenous teachers. OLC will also increase the quality of its distance learning courses using smart classrooms in its 11 college centers, well-designed courses, and well-trained faculty, while reaching more students and graduate students.

Teachers will be grounded in Wolakolkiciyapi to achieve state endorsements upon graduation. Graduates will have increased PRAXIS passing rates for both pre-education program entrance and upon graduation.

Sitting Bull College (SBC) received a grant to support its Teacher Education and Indigenous Early Childhood Education projects, Sakhib Naunzinpi – Standing Together. SBC’s project will establish a community connection team to enhance cultural content/alignment and culturally responsive curriculum to work with elders, education faculty, and community members to address parent/family engagement from a Native/Lakota/Dakota perspective; enhance pathways to the teaching profession by creating assessments to understand barriers current students face in completing their education degree; define Indigenous pedagogy for child development and teaching practices; and establish a rubric for assessing language integration and culturally responsive curriculum

Turtle Mountain Community College (TMCC) received a grant to support its Gikinoo’amaadiwag (they teach each other) teacher education project. TMCC’s project will enhance pathways to the teaching profession by piloting a fully online elementary education degree program and an Indigenous secondary math education degree program. TMCC will also develop early entry courses to recruit students. The college will expand academic advising to include students earlier in the teacher education pathway, tutoring for the Praxis I and II assessments, and direct stipend support to new students.

United Tribes Technical College (UTTC) received a grant to support its teacher education project, The Dragonfly Project. UTTC’s project will strengthen pathways into the teaching profession by enhancing current models for online course delivery, Praxis bootcamps, and student support. The college will be offering courses online as well as a cultural teaching option that would meet North Dakota licensure requirements, integrate videos of elders’ stories into the elementary education curricula, and develop a cultural teaching certificate leading to state licensure. UTTC will continue to use its current model for test preparation and will create a process for sharing a model for Praxis bootcamps and coaching for test preparation with other TCUs to increase pass rates and reduce barriers to licensure and certification.

Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO, American Indian College Fund, said, “The College Fund is so honored to support TCUs educating Native teachers. I know from personal experience, coming from a family of teachers, and with my own children educated by tribal college graduates, that our teachers not only have the talent and skills to be teachers they also have the heart. The children they educate are their relatives, prompting a more dedicated and intentional relationship. We congratulate all the participating TCUs and look forward to their continued success.”

About the American Indian College Fund—The American Indian College Fund has been the nation’s largest charity supporting Native higher education for 33 years. The College Fund believes “Education is the answer” and provided $14.45 million in scholarships and other direct student support to American Indian students in 2021-22. Since its founding in 1989 the College Fund has provided more than $284 million in scholarships, programs, community, and tribal college support. The College Fund also supports a variety of academic and support programs at the nation’s 35 accredited tribal colleges and universities, which are located on or near Indian reservations, ensuring students have the tools to graduate and succeed in their careers. The College Fund consistently receives top ratings from independent charity evaluators and is one of the nation’s top 100 charities named to the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. For more information about the American Indian College Fund, please visit www.collegefund.org.

Journalists—The American Indian College Fund does not use the acronym AICF. On second reference, please use the College Fund.

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Jasmine Neosh (Menominee), University of Michigan law student, College of Menominee Nation alumna, and American Indian College Fund student ambassador says, “I vote so that the people who make the change that our communities need have the best possible partners in that fight. While real change often comes through the work of organizers and boots on the ground, the people that we elect can either be our allies or our opposition. Either way, having some say in that choice seems like our responsibility as future ancestors.”