Educators Can Help Support Tribal Students

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September 14, 2020

This is the first in a series of guest blogs by the 2020-21 Michigan Regional Teachers of the Year. Tan-A Hoffman is a second grade teacher at JKL Bahweting Anishnabe School in Sault Ste. Marie.
Boozhoo, Tan-A Hoffman ndizhnihaas. Makwa dodem, Bahweting n’doon-jabaa. Hello, my name is Tan-A Hoffman, I am Bear Clan, and I’m from Sault Sainte Marie. I humbly address you and acknowledge that I am currently on the lands of the Sault Sainte Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, the tribe of my husband and my children. I am a 20-year veteran teacher in the Upper Peninsula, originally from Grand Rapids. Go Union RedHawks!
I am currently a second grade teacher for JKL Bahweting Anishnaabe PSA. We are a public school, as well as a Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) school in collaboration with the Sault Sainte Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Not only do we focus on strong academic content centered around the Common Core State Standards, but we also deliver instruction wrapped in Anishnaabe (Ojibwe) culture, language and way of life. We encourage all children to attend our school, regardless of tribal status.

Who Am I? I Am NBCT Strong!

Bureau of Indian Education teachers were given an opportunity by the Bureau of Indian Education to work toward their National Board Certification in 2018. This is the highest level of teacher certification created by teachers for teachers. I was blessed to be in the first cohort of BIE teachers to achieve certification.
In 2018, I certified in Literacy: Reading Language Art for Early Middle Childhood. Since then, I have become a board member of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). I saw a need for a national network for the advancement of Native American educators and nontribal educators working to improve education for Indigenous students around the United States. I created the Bureau of Indian Education National Board Certified Teachers Network (BIE NBCT Network). The Network creates a space to improve Native American education for all students and teachers through the 5 Core Propositions.
  • Proposition 1: Teachers are committed to students and their learning.
  • Proposition 2: Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.
  • Proposition 3: Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.
  • Proposition 4: Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.
  • Proposition 5: Teachers are members of learning communities.
To think, this all started with JKL Bahweting Anishnaabe PSA, and we now have the largest BIE NBCT cohort of National Board Certified Teachers and candidates in the nation.
From my perspective, the institution of education and the idea of school is a colonial system full of rules and procedures, and because of this structure of school, doesn’t always meet the needs of our tribal students. It’s foreign from my/our Anishnaabe/Ojibwe culture and how we teach our children. Traditional schools include the exclusion of family and more importantly our Tribal elders from a child’s learning. To add on, schools prohibit the very core of who we are, as taught through the Seven Grandfather Teachings. Native students in Michigan have no opportunities to connect to who they are and instead are faced with being left to feel invisible at the very best or romanticized through history books. 
I have a couple requests of educators to help support Tribal students in Michigan.
Request 1: Support all students of color, especially Indigenous students, to become educators AND create and support your teachers of color. In 2018, the Michigan Department of Education concluded in a white paper, “Racial Characteristics of the Michigan Teacher Workforce,” that in Michigan, 91% of educators were white, 0.02% Native American, 5.9% Black or African-American and 1.2% Hispanic. Students desperately need to be taught by teachers with like experiences. They need to connect to educators and see themselves in the person in front of them at least once in their life. When was the first time you had a teacher of color? Let’s create more diverse teaching and learning experiences for our students.
Request 2: Decide today that becoming a National Board Certified Teacher is important to you. As Indigenous people, all of who we are and what we do as teachers can be summed up within the National Board’s 5 Core Propositions. We as Indigenous people are committed to our children and their learning because we love them and show them respect.  We as Indigenous people are committed to knowing what we teach and how we teach it to our children because we use the wisdom handed down by our ancestors for re-learning and new learning. We as Indigenous people are committed to observing our students and their learning because it is humble to be silent. We as Indigenous people are committed to learning from our success and our failures as an integral aspect of teaching and learning because we are brave and humble in accepting them. We as Indigenous people are committed to our learning communities because we respect others and humbly ask for their help when we are honest with ourselves, and need guidance to help others.
We understand that without the values we call the Seven Grandfather Teaching – respect, bravery, honesty, humility, wisdom, truth and love – we as Indigenous people would not be as resilient as we are. Let us remember that we have a blood memory so strong that ... we endure, we persist, and we prevail. 
We remain.  
Will you join us in becoming #NBCTStrong? 
Not only for our children, but for yours?
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