Earlier this month, for the second year in a row, the UWM Electa Quinney Institute for American Indian Education received a $1.1 million grant from the U.S Department of Education Bureau of Indian Education to support the Electa Quinney Teacher Training and Administrative Leadership Program (TTAL). The TTAL is a partnership between the Electa Quinney Institute, Milwaukee Public Schools, and the Indian Community School that supports native students pursuing careers in education. The program helps students pay tuition, buy books, and do whatever else they need to do in order to obtain teaching certificates or even administrative or superintendent licenses. The money from this grant will be used to support 10 students on their career path.
In an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio, Electa Quinney Institute director and UWM Associate Professor Margaret Noodin said that the TTAL helps students to design their program to best fit their career needs, and that grant money often helps those students have experiences or do work that otherwise would not be possible. Noodin also discussed how this year’s grant money is going to be used to support native students pursuing education careers in the STEM fields, as native teachers are extremely underrepresented in these fields. When asked in the interview why it is important for native teachers to be present in schools and in every type of classroom, Professor Noodin spoke to the benefit of native students seeing themselves represented: “If you go to school and you see a diverse group of teachers—you see a diverse group of leaders in that school encouraging you to do your best, and in that group you can see yourself, you have a better chance for success.” In a nation where schools were often oppressive and even traumatizing places for native students, this kind of representation is necessary for healing old wounds—and creating a brighter future.
This type of representation and success is vital to the missions of both the Electa Quinney Institute and the Indian Community School. The Electa Quinney Institute was founded to address the teaching, research, and service needs of members of the American Indian community on campus. The Indian Community School, located in the Milwaukee suburb of Franklin, educates 278 American Indian students from 13 different tribes. The ICS identifies its mission as cultivating “an enduring identity and critical thinking by weaving indigenous teachings with a distinguished learning environment,” and its values as wisdom, love, respect, bravery, humility, honesty, and truth.
The mission and values of this school are a great representation of Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies—an educational experience rooted in preservation, love, and empathy. Beyond that, though, the Indian Community School and the Electa Quinney Institute, through the TTAL, are solving a problem that is, in my opinion, all to often overlooked in the process of implementing culturally sustaining pedagogies. We must, of course, find ways to sustain and support our students, but it is also vital that we support and sustain our teachers, both present and future. CSP “is about sustaining cultures as connected to sustaining the bodies—the lives—of the people who cherish and practice them” (9). If that is so, then we have to ensure that our educators feel just as safe and supported as our students, and they feel welcome to embrace their culture in the classroom—from their own education onward. By offering so much support to students, the TTAL is doing just that.
To hear Professor Noodin’s full interview, visit Wisconsin Public Radio’s website.