SBC Education Department Gives Lakota Foundation

Aug 15th, 2006 | By | Category: 18-1: The Winding Road to Student Success, Tribal College News

When the Sitting Bull College Education Department moved into a new building last March, it was an exciting day for the staff and especially for the department chair, Kathryn Froelich. The new building houses the elementary/special education department as well as the early childhood department and a child care facility for students.

Froelich has seen the department mature and grow since 1996 when Sitting Bull College (SBC, Fort Yates, ND) first began offering a 4-year elementary/special education degree with a Lakota emphasis. An articulation agreement with SBC’s sister college, Sinte Gleska University (Mission, SD), made the 4-year degree possible. (See TCJ, Vol. 11, N.2, pages 18-20.)

SBC now has its own Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education, which was accredited in 2004 by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. The program also won state approval from the North Dakota Education Standards and Practices Board.

A total of 32 students have graduated from the program, and most are teaching or in master’s programs, according to research that Froelich has done as part of her dissertation. Only two are not in an education-related field at this time, she says.

The tribal college recognized the need for the teacher education program. Despite the high number of Indian students in North Dakota, only 2% of the 4,917 elementary teachers in the state are Indian, and the turnover rate is high with new teachers using the reservation schools as a one-year stepping stone, according to one of the graduates interviewed by Froelich.

The program helps current teachers meet the training requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, too.

The state requires teachers to take only one course related to American Indians, but this is not enough, according to Froelich. “Teachers coming on the reservation feel culture shock. Even when they were raised in the state, they don’t have that awareness,” she says.

In the SBC program, the teacher education students have to take Lakota language, Lakota culture, and either Native American Studies or Indian education. Of the 32 graduates, 3 were non-Native.  In her survey, one of the non-Indian graduates said, “All of my students are Native American so it was important for me to get training at this college.”

The SBC Education Department began with a staff of one and now has five. The program receives no funding from the state, but it must meet both North Dakota and South Dakota program requirements to maintain approved status for teacher licensure.

SBC receives financial support from the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ (BIA) Office of Special Education and most recently the Office of Indian Education.

In 2005 the college received a technology grant from the University of South Florida for a LASER (Linking Academic Scholars to Educational Research) project. Now the education department can participate in video conferences with Sinte Gleska University and other distant universities.

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