My grandparents on my dad’s side were Cherokee and Kiowa. They experienced forced assimilation and cultural disinheritance while attending a government boarding school. They were forced to speak English, and after my grandparents left school, they did not teach their Native languages to my father or his siblings.
Hearing my grandparents’ stories—and those of others—and seeing the challenges for some of our marginalized students today, has long motivated me to include my voice at the table as an educator.
Many Native American students feel invisible and relegated to the past. They don’t see themselves in school as a current, ongoing culture. Compounding this is a lack of culturally responsive resources or some people failing to realize the cultural experiences certain students bring with them.
I knew what I could do within my classrooms, but I could see how the systems weren’t working for some of our marginalized students. I wanted to help the systems become better for our students and taking on different leadership roles within the Rochester Education Association allowed me to do that.
Some of our major wins included getting three community schools up and running, which meant more community partners and staff to work with them. Our local has also negotiated contract language for more school counselors, social workers, and mental health practitioners.
Recently, working with other educators, community members, and Native American groups, we were able to get the school district to revamp its Thanksgiving curriculum to make it more historically accurate, age-appropriate, and offer multiple perspectives of historical events.
Working with the union has really transformed my teaching and my work in educational systems quite a bit.