Teacher Education Grant Focuses on New York’s Indigenous Communities

October 24 2016
Category: Academics

Hollie Kulago  Rebecca Page Johnson

A growing number of students of color are enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade in schools in New York State. Specifically in the 2013-2014 school year, 15,390 self-identified Indigenous students were enrolled in the state. While research indicates that having a teacher with a shared cultural identity increases academic engagement and achievement, the number of qualified Indigenous teachers does not currently meet that demand.

In response, Dr. Hollie Kulago, Elmira College Assistant Professor of Childhood Education, submitted a successful grant proposal to the U.S. Department of Education to create a teacher education project in collaboration with the Seneca Nation of Indians, Jamestown Community College, and supported by the Gowanda and Salamanca City School Districts. The federal funding, granted through the Indian Professional Development Program, will provide approximately $228,000 for the first year of the four-year award designed to prepare Indigenous teacher education students at Elmira College to become highly qualified Indigenous teachers. 

“There is a high demand for highly qualified Indigenous teachers in New York State and nationally,” said Dr. Kulago. “A supportive and rigorous teacher education program that is rooted in the needs of the Indigenous students and communities, has limitless implications at various levels and in multiple aspects. Most importantly, the Indigenous communities from where the teacher education students come and where they will teach will gain teachers who understand the needs and goals of the students, communities, and nation and will be able to center those needs within their practice to promote the academic success of their students.”

Dr. Kulago and Dr. Rebecca Page Johnson, Elmira College Assistant Professor of Adolescence Education, will work with Indigenous teacher education students to receive teacher certification in order to promote academic success and nation building efforts among Indigenous communities. Dr. Kulago will be traveling to Washington, D.C. in the coming weeks to finalize details with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Indian Education. 

“Dr. Kulago’s membership with the Navajo Nation, her scholarship in Indigenous Education and her experience as a teacher educator enabled her to create a powerful proposal,” said Dr. Johnson. “The Empowering Relationships Program at Elmira College will completely fund the tuition, room, board and teacher certification examination fees of Indigenous Teacher Education students.  The curriculum will center Indigenous knowledges and focus on creating teachers who are highly qualified nation builders.  I am honored to work with Dr. Kulago on this ground-breaking project.”

The “Empowering Relationships Project: Creating Highly Qualified Indigenous Teachers” program at Elmira College was one of 20 projects to receive $6.7 million in federal grants from the Indian Professional Development Program to help improve education for native students and to promote high-quality educators to teach in tribal-run schools or schools with large populations of native students. For further information about the project and about participant eligibility, please email empower@elmira.edu.