NWIC Program Includes Special Ed

May 15th, 2000 | By | Category: 11-4: All Our Children Are Special, Tribal College News

Northwest Indian College (NWIC) has joined with Washington State University (WSU) to address the shortage of indigenous teachers in the Pacific Northwest. The tribal college in Bellingham, Wash., and the state land grant university in Pullman, Wash., are building a culturally sensitive and responsive teacher preparation program. The project began with a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in fall 1997. Since the design of the grant required immediate start-up, the teacher education program initially mirrored the WSU teacher education. Since then, the team has focused upon professional development and curriculum revision. The committee members represent the local tribal community, local Indian educators in schools and the tribal college, state and national Indian education consultants, the directors of the program, and the faculty liaison from WSU.

“The 18 students in this program care about the future of the children, as demonstrated by their commitment to pursue their degrees in spite of the many personal and professional challenges they have endured,” said Susan Rae Banks, Ph.D., the faculty liaison at WSU for the program. The first cohort of six students graduates this May with bachelor’s degrees in elementary education (K-8). Five of the six will also be receiving an endorsement in special education. For their field work, the students have been to both tribal and public schools. They have discussed the complex issues that they have encountered as they learn how to serve indigenous children with and without disabilities and their families in ways that honor families rather than alienating them. “The students are prepared to be advocates for truly free appropriate education for all children by involving elders, families, and community members in schools,” Banks said. Their training also prepares them to discourage others from viewing differences as deficits and encourage others to see the learners’ culture, traditions, and strengths. The second cohort of 12 students started the core courses in teacher preparation in January 2000. Graduating students are expected to return as mentors and as instructors for the program.

The program will benefit tribes by giving Indian people a bigger voice in their educational futures, Banks said. “Such community-based teacher education partnerships facilitate systemic change, empower Native peoples, embrace traditional lifestyles, and increase cultural sensitivity and effective teaching in mainstream colleges and universities as well as tribal colleges,” she said.

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