N.M., schools try to teach
students more Navajo culture
Apr. 19, 2004
GALLUP, N.M. - The Navajo Nation and
Gallup-McKinley County Schools would help bring more Navajo culture to both
students and staff under a tentative agreement approved by the Navajo Education
District Indian education director Gloria Begay would work with the tribe's
Division of Dine Education to activate the program.
Besides the Navajo language, government and culture classes taught at the
district's high schools, she said, teachers are essentially on their own when it
comes to incorporating elements of Navajo culture into other classes, and Begay
says "there's nothing ... systemic throughout the district."
The idea is to integrate Navajo culture and language into the education plans of
struggling students as well as the district's power performance standards - the
districtwide guidelines teachers use to teach what the state expects of
About 80 percent of the district's enrollment is American Indian. For those
students, Begay said, classes are infused with the teachings and experiences of
their culture, whether basic math or advanced biology.
Begay agrees with the impression of some teachers that the district doesn't do
enough to introduce new teachers to what for many will be their students'
A better grounding in Navajo tradition, beliefs and history can help save
teachers from stumbling through sensitive issues.
A clearer picture of life on the reservation would also help, she believes.
Next fall, the district will begin beefing up its new teacher orientations with
more information, including providing instructional CD's developed by the Navajo
Education Technology Consortium on some basic dos-and-don'ts, she said.
Begay realizes there's only so much new teachers can absorb, so she's putting
together a small course they can go through on their own and at their own pace.
She said teachers will also be required to travel into their communities,
including attending some chapter house meeting.