By Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News
TULALIP – Marysville School District’s recent decision to adopt the Since Time Immemorial curriculum as part of their standard curriculum was a big step in addressing the need for Native representation in their schools. Cultural specialist Chelsea Craig, a Tulalip Tribal member who works at the district’s Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary school says, implementing STI alone will not be enough to address the disconnect schools have with Native students. She is hoping a new change in the district’s paraprofessional requirements will help close that gap.
Paraprofessionals according to the district’s website are “responsible for providing assistance to students under the direct supervision of certificated staff in classrooms or other learning environments as assigned. Although not certified as teachers they act as assistants to teachers and other school staff, making this position great for those who are seeking a career in education. To become a paraprofessional one needed a two-year degree as part of the requirement list that includes background check and ability to pass district training. Now the two-year degree requirement has been dropped and replaced with the requirement to have a high school diploma or equivalent. This change is what Craig is hoping her Native people take advantage of and become involved with their local schools.
“Historically our people have had a mistrust in education, starting from the boarding school era, and then each generation [following] there is still an underlining feeling of mistrust. By having more Native faces in the schools it helps to make schools feel less like an institution to our Native students and more like a family atmosphere,” said Craig.
Four Marysville School District schools are located on the Tulalip Reservation. The schools’ student population adds to the large number of Native students scattered throughout the district. This high concentration of Native students makes a unique partnership between the Tribes and the district. Together both have created initiatives to support students and close the achievement gap, especially in math and literacy.
“Passing STI was huge because we all bring our own wealth of knowledge about who we are and we can share that with our kids,” said Craig.
STI curriculum provides a basic framework of accurate Indian history and understanding of sovereignty that is integrated into standard learning units. Teachers are provided training on tribal history and culture. Quil Ceda has taught this style for some time, gaining national attention for their diverse school culture.
“We are finding that when we teach about culturally relevant topics the engagement is naturally much higher. The kids are motivated to do their work and they are excited about learning about their own culture, and non-Indian students are excited about learning as well. We just need as many Native faces on campus as possible, and if we can’t have them as teachers, having them as paraprofessionals is a great next step,” said Craig. “It makes such a big difference for our kids to see their own people in roles that are inspirational to them.”
If you are interested in becoming a paraprofessional with the Marysville School District visit their website at www.msd25.org or call the district at 360-653-7058.
Brandi N. Montreuil: 360-913-5402; firstname.lastname@example.org