Havre Daily News
Fort Belknap College, in conjunction with Montana State University-Northern, will receive a $325,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to better teach and prepare future American Indian educators.
The grant will pay for tuition, fees, books and child care for students chosen to participate, said Fort Belknap College President Carole Chandler. Those who recieve the money must graduate with an education degree and put in at least one year teaching on an American Indian reservation - preferrably close to home.
Right now, the number of Indian educators on the Fort Belknap reservation is low, Chandler said Tuesday. Harlem has only a handful of native teachers in its classrooms, and not many more work on the college campus. This needs to change, she said.
Chandler said many of the problems at Fort Belknap's schools correlate to the small number of Native American teachers on their campuses. Hopefully, the grant will help to put more, better Indian educators in reservation classrooms.
"You need someone to identify with, but they still have to be a good teacher," Chandler said. "We have a lot of students, but we have a lot of dropouts. We need some role models. Someday there might be."
Will Rawn, the dean of education, arts and sciences and nursing at MSU-N, agrees.
"I think anything of this kind is good news for Indian education," he said. "Getting Native American teachers in their school systems is critical."
The grant is part of the U.S. Office of Indian Education's professional development program. The program is designed to help tribal colleges and other colleges near reservations train people to become teachers and administrators in Indian communities. The grant is being given under the No Child Left Behind law. Sixteen colleges received the grant this year, five of which were tribal colleges, Chandler said.
Students who are juniors or higher and are pursuing an education degree can apply to get a stipend from the grant. The applications will be evaluated by an advisory committee, which will probably include members of both the Fort Belknap College and MSU-N staffs.
Part of the selection process will focus on how much a student wants to become an educator. It is important that the students chosen are committed to making education their career, Chandler said. Also, unless a student completes the program, including the one-year teaching requirement, any money the student spent from the grant will have to be paid back in full.
Once selected to be a part of the program, students will take most of their classes from MSU-N, but will also be able to use the money toward courses they want to take at Fort Belknap.
Fort Belknap received a similar grant three years ago. Two of the program's graduates now teach in Harlem schools, and others have gone to reservations in Arizona, Minnesota and other states. The 2002 grant helped produce 25 Native American teachers.
Rawn said that year's graduating class had many more Native American graduates than usual. Hopefully, he said, that success can be repeated.
With the program's previous good showing, Chandler is also optimistic.
"We were really proud of our students there," Chandler said about that class. "All of the students we had had succeeded, graduated and received jobs.
"The majority of them are still teaching," she said. "It is working."