Fort Peck Increasing Native Teachers

Nov 15th, 1999 | By | Category: 11-2: Teacher Education, Tribal College News

In 1991, Fort Peck Community College (FPCC) established a bachelor’s degree in elementary education through articulation agreements with local state institutions. Today, as a result of this program, the Fort Peck Tribes have 33 Indian teachers in the five school districts, which employ 221 teachers, according to Donna Buckles-Whitmer, the distance learning coordinator and administrator for the teacher training program. The bachelor’s degree program is part of a comprehensive effort by Fort Peck Community College to improve education on the reservation by offering certificates and degrees—associate, bachelor’s, and master’s.

The bachelor’s and the master’s program courses are delivered to the remote reservation in northeast Montana by telecommunication from other institutions (see TCJ, Vol. X, N.4, pp. 14-18). Forty students are now enrolled in the bachelor’s elementary education program. They earn 64 credits from Fort Peck Community College, and Rocky Mountain College (RMC) delivers the upper division courses in methods and materials via interactive television. RMC is a small, private, liberal arts college in Billings. Each student needs 124 credits, including student teaching, to graduate with a bachelor’s degree.

Freshmen are encouraged to first enroll in the new paraprofessional education program. All of the credits earned from the paraprofessional education program are accepted at RMC. FPCC used a grant from the U.S. Department of Education in 1997 to establish the paraprofessional program, which was designed also as a one-year certificate program for the 109 teacher aids and substitutes employed in the five school districts. Fort Peck Tribal Education Department provides incentives for tribal members, issuing monetary awards for each educational accomplishment (GED, high school diploma, one and two year certificates, etc).

Both the paraprofessional certificate and the associate degree in education require 40-45 hours of field practicum, and the bachelor degree requires student teaching. Thus the FPCC Elementary Education students have three separate exposures to the classroom. This exposure prepares the FPCC students for their first year of teaching. The need for field experiences was a major concern of the state of Montana in its recent inquiry into the preparation of educators in the state.

Through articulation agreements with Montana State University-Northern in Havre, Fort Peck will be offering two master’s degrees (learning development and school administration) and a bachelor’s degree in secondary education via interactive television. Other tribal colleges in Montana will be included.

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