UNM professor recruits Native American teachers to work in their hometown

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Glenabah Martinez knows firsthand the benefits that teachers and students share when they belong to the same community. She wants to help accelerate the path of Indigenous university graduates to teaching in public schools.

Martinez (Taos/Diné), taught students at Taos Pueblo but was immersed in the culture and traditions she shares with students outside the school.

Now, in her role as a professor at the University of New Mexico, she wants to expand that opportunity for future educators fresh out of college who can be part of public education reform in the state and chart a course. path to maintaining traditional cultures while becoming leaders. .

“We not only need to teach them to read, write and do things in the Western way, but we need to recognize that they are also receiving a strong cultural education at home,” she said.

Martinez is looking for recent Native American college graduates or those about to graduate to participate in a program that will provide them with an easy path to a teaching license with first-hand experience teaching a class in their home community.

“We’re trying to recruit people to become teachers who will not only teach, but teach in their Indigenous community,” she said. “So we’re talking about teachers to work in rural areas.”

The program is open to Native American students enrolled in UNM’s Department of Education as well as Native students with at least a bachelor’s degree in a field that may be useful in a K-12 classroom.

Think history, math, music, social studies, and science.

Martinez is holding briefings on the program on Thursday.

How to attend

Thursday, July 7 via Zoom

Two sessions, 12 p.m. and 6 p.m.

UNM’s Institute of American Indian Education recruits recent or future college graduates who are Native American to teach K-12 in their home communities.

register here.

The university’s Institute for American Indian Education will facilitate teaching and provide students with the opportunity to meet education professionals working to expand Indigenous representation in the classroom, as well as mentorship from Native American educational leaders. The program is funded by a $250,000 grant from the New Mexico Department of Public Education.

It’s just one step in the process of reforming public education in the state, Martinez said. She hopes to build on bringing more teachers into tribal communities to further improve how public schools educate students about Native American issues.

“I would revamp the whole (teacher) certification program that everyone — whether you’re from Clovis or Akron, Ohio, and want to live in New Mexico — you need to know about Native education,” said Martinez. , “because you’re probably going to have Aboriginal students in your classes.”

In the meantime, she is dedicated to bringing students in front of teachers who share lived experiences and an understanding of their traditional culture.

The heads of state mandated to reform public education by the court ruling in the Yazzie-Martinez case face a shortage of teachers but also a significant lack of educators representing the students they teach. The program that Martinez recruits is a response to this lawsuit.

Specifically, the court said students living in poverty, with disabilities, learning English as a second language, and Native Americans were most at risk due to failures in the state’s public education system. .

Native American students make up more than 10% of the total public school population statewide, but Native teachers make up only 3% of the workforce, according to the NM Department of Public Education. In predominantly Native American school districts, such as those in tribal lands, the number is increasing but still lags behind non-Native instructors.

Education officials argue that students do better when their teacher is representative of their community.

Martinez said teachers in tribal communities understand cultural ties that might conflict with a student’s classroom participation.

“Indigenous teachers in your own community, they know you, they stand up for you, they support you,” Martinez said. “They fully understand what it means to be a Mescalero Apache educated person.”

For example, traditional days of ceremonies don’t always coincide with the school calendar, she said, which can force an absence or disciplinary action if a teacher is unaware of community customs that can kick a student out of school. class for days.

“This recognition is just that, which can be given by other natives in your community, because they participate,” she said. “They see them participating in the cultural life of the communities.

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