A $1.1 million federal grant will enable the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College and UW-Superior to turn out more Native American school teachers.
The goal of the Future Indian Teachers Project is to have 15 students earn their degrees in education from UW-Superior by 2015. Project Coordinator Sarah Butler says having this program will be help the students but also the kids they end up teaching, “A lot of kids around here, it’s really important for them to get back into that culture, the language, and their traditions. So having that need with Native American teachers helping those students identify with those that are already in these communities whether that’s LCO, Lac Du Flambeau, Red Cliff, Bad River, St. Croix. You know it’s really important for them to study that along with the adults that are going through this program.”
Butler says this helps kids realize the importance of education, “When they have those role models that are going through a program such as the Future Indian Teachers, they see people in their own community and they are able to identify with them that education is important and how we are able to better our community.”
Butler says this program plays a huge role in defining cultural identity for these students who otherwise might feel like outsiders, “There’s just a lot of studies that go along with cultural identity and those also play a factor in if they don’t know who they are, it’s hard for them to exist in two worlds trying to figure out which culture or language they are supposed to go along with so I think it’s really important that the children are able to grow in their communities.”
Butler hopes the Future Indian Teachers Project will become a long-term program that will help solve the region’s shortage of Native American teachers.