Montana Western Foundation Announces Gift to Support Indigenous Educators

The University of Montana Western Foundation recently received a gift in the amount of $25,000 to support Professor Vikki Howard’s work through the University of Montana Western’s collaboration with the Blackfeet Community College and Browning Public Schools.

This gift will assist with Indigenous Teacher Education and the goal of increasing the number of Indigenous educators on the Blackfeet Reservation. According to Napi Superintendent Corrina Guardipee-Hall, a combination of high turnover, difficulty in recruitment and predominance of novice teachers contribute to the challenges of serving the needs of children in and around the reservation.

The partnership is also supported by a $1M federal Office of Indian Education grant and a $20,000 NARCH Wellness grant. Over 40 Indigenous teacher candidates seeking a K8 (Kindergarten through eighth grade) or P3 (Preschool through third grade) degree and/or certification are currently enrolled as students at Montana Western.  Most are also taking courses at Blackfeet Community College and are teachers, paraprofessionals or long-term substitute teachers in and around Browning, Mont.

One of the Montana Western faculty, Lona Running Wolf, brought two of her students, Patrick and Anna Armstrong, to Montana Western’s campus in December 2017 to speak to returning student teachers at Senior Seminar. To learn more, you can read the article on our website.

Patrick and Anna Armstrong

Patrick and Anna Armstrong presented at Montana Western’s Senior Seminar Class in December 2017. Anna Armstrong explained why it is so important to find ways to teach children to value who they are as a people. Patrick Armstrong described ways that he is applying both Indigenous and Western pedagogy with his students.

Tara VanDerveer, legendary Stanford Women’s Basketball Coach, is the benefactor of this exciting gift. Coach VanDerveer and Professor Howard have a long-standing friendship. Howard played on VanDerveer’s very first team at the University of Idaho 37 years ago. In May 2015, VanDerveer joined Howard in Pablo, Mont. at the Salish Kootenai College to sponsor “The Hoop”, a coaches and youth basketball clinic that emphasized the power of positive coaching.

Tara VanDerveer

Coach Tara VanDerveer at her 1,000th career win game in 2017, in Stanford, Calif. Photo by Don Feria/ISIPhotos.com.

Researchers Teresa McCarty and Tiffany Lee, among others, concluded that the lack of Indigenous educators, those who are best able to connect to children through the lens of the Blackfeet world view, contributes to issues of weak cultural identity, dropping out of school, social and behavioral problems and long-term poverty. The number of Indigenous educators are far fewer than the number of Indigenous children nationwide, according to Ulrich Boser, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

The Education Department has been collaborating with Tribal Colleges for nearly two decades, first with Salish Kootenai College in developing their K8 program and training special education educators and now with Blackfeet Community College.

Professor Howard has a passion for working with tribal colleges and helping to develop curricula that will help to increase the number of much-needed Indigenous educators in their communities. VanDerveer is also passionate about helping to educate future teachers; both her parents, Rita and Dunbar, were educators. Her gift in support of this program is a testament to her philanthropic spirit.

According to Montana Western Foundation Director Roxanne Engellant, “We are thrilled to collaborate with Blackfeet Community College and the Browning School District to continue this tradition with Indigenous educators. VanDerveer’s gift in support of this work is truly appreciated and will help make an impact on this program. I am grateful to be able to work with Professor Howard and Tara VanDerveer to move this program forward with this special gift,” Engellant said.

For more information, please contact Roxanne Engellant by email at roxanne.engellant@umwestern.edu, or call 406-683-7305.

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