NAU, community partners celebrate as the DINÉ Institute joins League of Teachers Institutes

Oct. 24, 2019

The Diné Institute, a collaboration between Northern Arizona University, the Kayenta, Chinle, Cedar, Holbrook and Sanders unified school districts and the Diné Department of Education, had its implementation application approved by the Yale National Initiative (YNI) and is now part of the League of Teachers Institutes.

This is an important step for the Diné Institute for Navajo Nation Educators (DINÉ), which, starting in 2018, offers long-term professional development seminars to K-12 teachers throughout the Navajo Nation.

In a letter to NAU President Rita Cheng, the five school district superintendents and Navajo Nation Department of Diné Education Superintendent of Schools Tommy Lewis Jr., James Vivian, director of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, lauded the collaborative efforts and said the national review panel was enthusiastic about the vision expressed by the partners.

“They were impressed that the partners have found ways to make the Teachers Institute approach work in a challenging rural setting,” he wrote. “Clearly, teachers, faculty and administrators in the university and the schools want to make it work. The application honors the tenets of the Teachers Institute approach and intends to carry out the university’s vision of becoming the leading institution of higher education serving Native communities. In short, the application is bold, aspirational and consequential—significant not only to the university but also to the National Initiative.”

“We are extremely proud of this designation and that the DINÉ is the first Institute within the League of Teachers Institutes to serve rural communities and the first to partner with a Native Nation,” Cheng said. “This important program aligns with our Strategic Plan and commitment to Native Americans, and complements our strong partnerships with the Navajo Nation to ensure we strengthen teaching and better prepare native students for post-secondary education.”

“If NAU is going to buck the national trend for post-secondary Native American students, more than 60 percent of whom are not expected to persist and graduate, we must engage with K-12 teachers in Native communities to strengthen teaching and learning,” said Vice President of Native American Initiatives Chad Hamill. “DINÉ does this in a culturally responsive way, making it a powerful tool to close the achievement gap before it becomes intractable.”

Other districts and schools can sign on as formal partners in this effort by contacting director Angelina Castagno at dineteachersinstitute@nau.edu. Additional information, as well as the online application for teachers, can be found at the Diné Institute for Navajo Nation Educators’ website.