Conference to address needs of Native students

Northern Arizona University’s College of Education will host the second annual American Indian Teacher Education Conference to determine how to better prepare teachers of American Indian students.

The conference, scheduled for June 11-12 on the NAU campus, brings together educators, administrators, board members, tribal officials and parents to share ideas and experiences, while providing a forum to discuss current research in American Indian teaching methods.

“A central concern of educational improvement on Arizona Indian nations is how to get teachers to appreciate and respect traditional tribal values while giving their students a world-class education that prepares them to live and work in today’s global economy,” said Jon Reyhner, conference co-chair and professor of education.

Mary Quinnan, principal of Sacaton Middle School in the Gila River Indian Community, and Celeste Enochs, principal of Roosevelt School District, are keynote speakers. Tasked with “turning around” failing schools in Arizona, Quinnan and Enochs have a knowledge and understanding of how to increase student success by improving the preparation, communication and methodologies of educators and administrators.

Through panels, workshops and papers presented at the conference, Reyhner hopes to define the keys to classroom success with American Indian students and transfer those ideas into teacher education programs.

“We need teachers who are committed to innovative and intellectually challenging approaches to teaching Indian children, who can engage students in a study of local issues tribal communities face, who can motivate students to reason and act on their values to create a better world for everyone, but especially for themselves and their children,” Reyhner said.

Reyhner stressed the conference is a discussion among researchers and reservation school educators to share what teaching methodologies are successful in closing the achievement gap between American Indian students and the rest of America.

“Some of this conference is going to take place in the hallways,” Reyhner said. “We want to break down barriers between schools to share ideas of what works.”

The conference will be held in the Eastburn Education Center, building 27, and Ashurst Auditorium, building 11. The keynote speaker sessions are free and open to the public. Quinnan will present “Asking the Right Questions: A Framework for School Improvement” at 8 a.m. Friday and Enochs will present “A Turnaround Challenge: Turning Around Failing Schools” at 8 a.m. Saturday.

For information contact Jon Reyhner at (928) 523-0580.