NAU institute supports education in Indigenous communities

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Having a highly qualified teacher in the classroom is one of the biggest factors in a student’s success. Now, an institute at NAU is is helping support teachers in Indigenous communities around our state. On Arizona Horizon, we spoke to Angelina E. Castagno, Ph.D., who is the director of the Institute for Native-serving Educators.

Arizona has a long-standing teacher shortage. That shortage is especially pronounced in Indigenous communities. Northern Arizona University’s Institute for Native-serving Educators (INE) is supporting educators from Indigenous communities through unique professional development. This institute’s main goal is to strengthen schooling across Indian Country. INE hopes to be the premier pre-K-12 professional development institute of choice for Native Nations in the United States. 

By strengthening schools across Indian Country, NAU is helping to address years of educational neglect and radically improve teaching and learning. Thus, this prepares Indigenous students to thrive in higher education and beyond.

Recently, the institute received a $1 million award from the Arizona Department of Education to expand its efforts. INE is anticipated to serve more than 100 educators this year alone.

What can teachers expect?

So, those teachers who are Diné Fellows participate in an 8-month fellowship that will increase their:

  • Content knowledge
  • Curriculum-development skills
  • Capacity to deliver culturally responsive lessons
  • Leadership ability
  • Writing capacity

Teachers participate in a seminar group that is led by University faculty who are content experts. Then, those teachers learn the seminar material through reading, discussion, and independent research. In addition, each educator writes a unique curriculum unit for use in their classroom.

3 guiding principles at the Diné Institute for Navajo Nation Educators

  • Diné and other Indigenous youth, teachers, elders, and communities are rich sources and sites of knowledge.
  • Culturally responsive schooling is a best practice. The Diné integrates Navajo traditional knowledge throughout all aspects of teaching, learning, and leading.
  • Initiatives that strengthen teaching through culturally responsive professional development will, in turn, improve the educational attainment of Diné and other Indigenous youth. And that is a necessary component for tribal nation (re)building goals of sovereign Native Nations in the U.S.

For more information visit INE’s website.

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