NAU’s Institute for Native-serving Educators receives $1 million award to support educator recruitment and retention in Indigenous communities

Believing in the power of teachers and the desire to grow their capacity to write and teach curriculum that is culturally responsive is at the forefront of the Institute for Native-serving Educators (INE), and the Institute just received a $1 million award from the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) to do just that, supporting statewide priorities in education.

INE has been working diligently to partner with teachers, school leaders and tribal leaders to support the professional growth of educators in Indigenous communities. With this award, INE can partner with additional tribal communities to continue strengthening schools by expanding their professional development programs and fellowships for tribal educators.

Interim Vice President for Native American Initiatives and director of the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals, Ann Marie Chischilly, said this award also will directly support NAU’s strategic goal to become the leading university serving Native Americans.

“By investing in our Indigenous educators’ development, we invest in the Indigenous youth,” she said. “The younger we can reach our youth, the more they will be prepared and excited to attend college. I was raised on the Navajo Nation, I know how hard it is to make the transition to college. This award will allow that transition to be less of an obstacle and more of a journey to support themselves and their communities.”

By developing and supporting high-quality, culturally responsive pre-K-12 educators in Native-serving schools, INE addresses years of educational neglect to radically improve teaching and learning, preparing Indigenous students to thrive in higher education and whatever career pathways they choose. The Diné Institute for Navajo Nation Educators (DINÉ) is one of the most well-established programs within INE. It is a partnership between NAU and schools on the Navajo Nation and it is teacher-driven, allowing K-12 teachers to make decisions about the types of professional development they want to receive. It includes a residency component so teachers can spend a week or more on NAU’s campus engaged in research and learning alongside faculty.

“Since we began planning the DINÉ in 2016, and also since we launched INE in 2020, we’ve heard from educators across the state who want to participate in our programs and/or who have great ideas for new programs to support the unique needs and contexts in their communities,” Angelina Castagno said, who serves as the director of INE and DINÉ. “We’ve been constrained by our internally-limited capacity to pursue these requests, so this award is a game changer for us and for the Indigenous communities with whom we partner.”Group photo of DINÉ Fellows

After completing the DINÉ program, teachers have the opportunity to apply to be fellows with the Yale National Initiative. The DINÉ continues to support these teachers by covering costs of travel to and from New Haven, Connecticut a few times per year and the award from the ADE will allow for continued funding and even increase the numbers of teachers who can receive funding.

“This award from ADE affirms our commitment to teacher leadership and to culturally responsive schooling, and it directs resources to Indigenous communities who have been most negatively impacted by generations of assimilationist approaches to schooling,” Castagno said. “I feel incredibly honored to get to do this work with K-12 teacher leaders, tribal partners and the NAU community.”

About the Institute for Native-serving Educators

Through NAU’s Office of Native American Initiatives, this Institute is the home for all efforts that aim to strengthen schooling across Indian Country. The goal of INE is to be the premier pre-K-12 professional development institute of choice for Native Nations in the United States. INE houses all professional development partnerships and programs for teachers and administrators in early childhood programs through post-secondary education. 

About the Diné Institute for Navajo Nation Educators

The Diné Institute for Navajo Nation Educators (DINÉ) is a partnership between Northern Arizona University and schools on the Navajo Nation who are participating in the Yale National Initiative. The DINÉ provides innovative K-12 teacher professional development that elevates curricular rigor and strengthens culturally responsive teaching in public, BIE and tribally-controlled schools across the Diné Nation.

Northern Arizona University LogoMcKenzie McLoughlin | NAU Communications
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